Britain is fast running out of time to figure out its Brexit plan.
The U.K. has confirmed that official divorce talks with the European Union will start on June 19. But it's far from clear what its negotiating position will be when they get underway.
Last week's general election wiped out Prime Minister Theresa May's parliamentary majority and raised big doubts about her hardline EU exit strategy. U.K. finance minister, Philip Hammond, on Friday struck a much softer tone.
May is still trying to secure the support of a fringe party whose votes she needs to form a government, and it won't be clear until next Wednesday whether she commands a majority in parliament.
Meanwhile, there is open debate about how Britain should approach talks with the EU, despite a year having passed since voters chose to pull the U.K. out of its most important export market.
"The subjects we need to deal with are extraordinarily complex from a technical, judicial and financial point of view," Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, warned earlier this week.
May had promised to take Britain completely out of the bloc's common trading area and slash the number of people coming from the EU. She even threatened to walk away from Europe without paying a hefty divorce bill or striking a new trade deal.
But the stunning election result has cut May off at the knees. The business community and many lawmakers want to retain closer ties with Europe, and they are heaping pressure on the prime minister to change her approach.
Airbus (EADSF), for example, has threatened to move new production out of the country if it faces new trade barriers or restrictions on the ability to recruit EU workers for jobs in the U.K.
Keeping close economic integration with the EU after Brexit is likely to mean the U.K. has to compromise on immigration.
"The EU can only negotiate once the U.K. has come to a consensus on how to proceed -- which will only happen once British politicians openly debate Brexit's dilemmas," said Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform.
The UK is fast running out of time to figure out its Brexit plan
June 16, 2017 by Leave a Comment