19 Oct 2017

EU summit dinner: rogue states on the menu

There’s a bit of diplomatic Jenga going on at this summit. Angela Merkel and others want to extract money, tens of billions of it, from the UK, ideally without toppling Theresa May.

So you see tough language from Mark Rutte, head of the newly formed government in the Netherlands, a traditional British ally, spelling out that Mrs May really does have to put some flesh on what it is she is willing to pay for as the UK leaves the EU.

And you have Chancellor Merkel putting a slightly better gloss on things focusing on the prize ahead, the trade talks that might yet start in December if all goes well in the Autumn talks. We also saw the German Chancellor ostentatiously walking in with Theresa May, flanked on her other side by President Macron, an image intended to build her up.

The EU 27 know that Theresa May struggled to get the whole UK Cabinet signed up to the transition period request. Ponying up more billions is a tough ask, particularly as it could well come at exactly the same point (the December EU summit) when the transition rules are spelled out by the EU27. Brexiteers won’t like the prolonged period of EU suzerainty and may not get any of the concessions or tweaks they’re looking for.

Theresa May looks like being spared the pain of spelling out an exact number that she’s willing to cough up, but at the very least the EU want “headings” that she accepts are UK obligations. Some of those headings will be easily converted to numbers but some, as The Times showed today, are areas where there is no agreed definition and a big gap between the EU27 and the UK calculations.

Sometime this evening after the leaders have discussed Korea, Iran and Turkey, they will get round to their own rogue state and Theresa May will have the floor.


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