May in first Brexit talks with EU negotiators

Pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller yesterday said she would use £300,000 (S$537,000) raised in a campaign to encourage Britons to vote tactically for candidates in the upcoming general election who oppose a "hard Brexit".
Pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller yesterday said she would use £300,000 (S$537,000) raised in a campaign to encourage Britons to vote tactically for candidates in the upcoming general election who oppose a "hard Brexit".PHOTO: REUTERS

British PM's meeting comes as bloc hardens stance on financial services, immigration

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May was yesterday due to hold her first talks with key European Union Brexit negotiators, as the bloc hardens its position ahead of a summit to lay down red lines.

Mrs May was set to host European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier at Downing Street for the first face-to-face talks since she triggered the two-year process of withdrawing Britain from the EU.

The meeting comes as the EU toughened its strategy, making new demands over financial services, immigration and the bills Britain must settle before ending its 44-year-old membership in the bloc.

The latest draft negotiation guidelines, agreed on Monday by Mr Barnier and European diplomats, point to months of difficult talks ahead as the EU seeks to ensure Britain does not get a better deal outside the bloc than inside.

According to the document, the other 27 EU countries will seek to hold Britain liable for the bloc's costs for at least a year after it leaves in 2019 - longer than previously proposed.

Britain will also be required to grant EU citizens permanent residency after living there for five years; Mrs May's government has vowed to limit immigration.

The guidelines also recommend that Britain's finance industry will not necessarily be tied to any future trade deals with the EU, and that it must stick to the bloc's rules if it wants easy access to its markets.

In recent weeks, Mrs May has held talks with senior EU figures, including European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and European Council chief Donald Tusk, who visited Downing Street on April 6. Her spokesman said the visits show that Britain "will be approaching the negotiations in a constructive manner and with great goodwill".

The leaders of the other EU nations will meet on Saturday to set down the bloc's red lines, though the talks will not begin until June.

Meanwhile, London investment manager and prominent pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller yesterday said that she would use £300,000 (S$537,000) to encourage Britons to vote tactically for candidates in the upcoming general election who oppose a "hard Brexit".

Ms Miller, who won a Supreme Court case forcing the government to seek parliamentary approval before triggering Brexit, said Mrs May seemed set on a "hard Brexit" and that financial markets were wrong in presuming the election would see her soften her stance.

Ms Miller launched the "Best for Britain" campaign last week to raise money to back candidates in the snap election on June 8 who have promised to hold a meaningful vote on Mrs May's final deal with the EU after two-years of divorce talks.

It raised nearly £300,000, which will be used to support candidates, inform voters and ensure the "very best technology" to spread the message in areas where tactical voting could affect the result.

"We will work tirelessly to support candidates who want what's best for Britain and to keep all options open," said Ms Miller.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'May in first Brexit talks with EU negotiators'. Print Edition | Subscribe