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Britain planning for no Brexit deal, but unlikely - minister

06 October 2017

Talks regarding Britain's exit from the European Union have failed to make enough progress to allow negotiations to proceed to discussing a future trade relationship, the EU's most senior leaders say.

The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority: 557 votes in favour, 92 against and 29 abstentions, supported by the main political parties, the right of the majority (EPP) to Green, passing by the liberals and the socialists.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, addressing members of European Parliament (MEPs) at the beginning of a debate on the terms and agenda for Brexit talks, once again took a firm stance. Direct or indirect ECJ oversight of British courts when it comes to citizens rights is a key demand of Brussels.

"The taxpayers of the 27 don't have to pay for the consequences of the decision that they didn't take". "Theresa May, please don't put the party first - put please Britain first, put please the citizens first".

She added: "I urge the negotiation teams to reach agreement on this quickly because we want you to stay".

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The Parliament approved a resolution that "sufficient progress has not yet been made" on citizens' rights, Irish relations and financial obligations to allow for the talks to incorporate a future trade and security relation, as Britain has been seeking.

The EU parliament motion came despite a speech by May in Florence last month offering concessions, especially on the Brexit bill, and calling for a two-year transition period after Brexit to ease the impact on citizens and businesses.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also said it was too soon to move on to the next phase of negotiations. The Prime Minister's stance appears to be a candid admission for the first time that there is not enough time for a comprehensive deal to be negotiated on both the exit terms and any future trading relationship before March 2019, when the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, told MEPs: "There has not been sufficient progress made".

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But he warned of significant differences, in particular on how much Britain must pay as it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

"By reading Johnson's attacks against his own Prime Minister, he shows the British government is trapped by their own party quarrels and political contradictions", he said.

The non-binding vote comes as Bloomberg reports that Theresa May - under pressure from Brexit supporters for "appeasing" the European Union - is making her Florence offer to fulfil £20 billion in European Union spending commitments after Brexit conditional on a broader deal, putting a successful settlement in serious doubt.

Other points of contention include a reform of EU's labor rules, which France and some other western states say give unfair competitive advantage to cheap workers from the east.

Robert Bell is a partner and head of the EU & UK competition team at global law firm Bryan Cave.

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