EU Doesn’t Deny Reports Its Brexit Negotiators Spied on by British Intelligence
The European Commission, the executive of the European Union, has neither denied, nor confirmed press reports EU negotiators on Brexit suspected they were being spied on by Mi6, the UK’s foreign intelligence.
“The commission’s position today is that we cannot comment on these press reports,” a European Commission spokesperson said in Brussels on Thursday, as cited by The Independent.
Suspicions that EU officials involved in the Brexit talks might be bugged by Mi6 is seen a blow to the relations between Brussels and London at a time when the deadline for a Brexit deal – set by the EU in October 2018 – is rapidly approaching with no consensus in sight on the key thorny issues.
The suspicions of British spying emerged after the UK side got hold of a sensitive document “within hours” after they were presented to EU officials last month.
The document is reported to be a “political explosive” slide presentation conveying a “highly negative” economic assessment of British plans to remain aligned with EU rules after Brexit.
According to the reports of The Daily Telegraph, after the internal EU meeting in question, the UK took action right away by lobbying against Brussels releasing the assessment which could hurt the way British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers plan for Brexit would be received.
Against this backdrop, there have been indications by EU member states as well as British Cabinet members such as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox of the growing possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
Brexit talks resumed again on Thursday in Brussels, and are continuing on Friday on the top issues of the border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the future relationship between Britain and the EU.
The discussions are on the technical level, and not attended by the respective chief negotiators, EU’s Michel Barnier and Britain’s Dominic Raab.
Possibly the thorniest issue in the Brexit talks at the moment is the Ireland – Northern Ireland border, and the question of a “backstop” deal to prevent a hard border.
While the UK has turned down EU suggestions that Northern Ireland should remain in the EU customs area, the EU itself has made it clear that alternative solutions put forth by London would not prevent a hard border.
Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, which is supposed to be followed by 1.5-year-long transition period, until December 31, 2020.
However, a transition period would only be in place if any kind of a withdrawal agreement, or at least a joint Brexit declaration (the criticized “blind Brexit” option) is made.
The EU insists that a withdrawal agreement, more commonly known as a Brexit deal, be negotiated by October 2018 to allow the British and European Parliaments sufficient time to vote on it.
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