With the start of October’s Council Summit only three days away, European leaders have begun speaking out on Brexit and the Commission is working on setting its final bargaining position.
Last Thursday, 8 October, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called upon the UK Government to commit to making a deal. He admitted that it is currently ‘difficult to feel optimistic’, but said that he does believe there will be an agreement in the end and that he trusts the UK Government to reach a deal that ‘ensures reciprocal advantages’.
France’s new Minister of State for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, did introduce some optimism this weekend. Speaking to the France Info radio station on 11 October, the minister indicated that France might be willing to make a compromise on fishing rights. Rumours around Brussels for the last month, too, have whispered that the EU is flexible on fisheries if a compromise can be met on state aid; this interview could be seen as a way to put pressure on the UK to make compromises on state aid to unlock discussions on fishing. The minister also said that negotiations could continue into November, dismissing the hard 15 October deadline.
European Council President Charles Michel has spoken out to put pressure on the UK as well. On 7 October, following a call with the UK Prime Minister, Michel said that it is ‘time for the UK to put its cards on the table’. This message was reiterated during his trip to Dublin the following day. Speaking alongside Micheál Martin, Michel confirmed that it is not only fisheries the EU wants to see the UK make concessions on, but ‘the level playing field and governance’ as well.
All eyes will be on this week’s Council Summit, held on Thursday and Friday, during which European leaders will take stock of the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and review the state of the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership.