Brexit: Talk of deadlock is exaggerated, says Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk at the summit

Reports of deadlock over Brexit negotiations may have been exaggerated, European Council President Donald Tusk has said after a Brussels summit.

Progress was “not sufficient” to begin trade talks with the UK now but that “doesn’t mean there is no progress at all”, he said.

EU leaders will discuss the issue internally, paving the way for talks with the UK, possibly in December.

Theresa May said there was “some way to go” but she was “optimistic”.

Speaking at the end of a two-day summit, Mr Tusk told reporters: “My impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and the UK have been exaggerated.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, described the talks as deadlocked earlier this month.

Mr Tusk said he was not at odds with Mr Barnier, but his own role was to be a “positive motivator for the next five or six weeks”.

He said he felt there was “goodwill” on both sides “and this is why I, maybe, in my rhetoric, I’m, maybe, a little bit more optimistic than Michel Barnier, but we are also in a different role”.

‘Not halfway there’

The so-called divorce bill remains a major sticking point in talks with the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron said there was still much work to be done on the financial commitment before trade talks can begin, adding: “We are not halfway there.”

Theresa May declined to say in a press conference after the summit what the UK would be prepared to pay, saying the “final settlement” would come as part of a “final agreement” with the EU.

The UK prime minister did not name any figures but refused to deny that she had told other EU leaders the UK could pay many more billions of pounds than the £20bn she had indicated in her Florence speech last month.

“I have said that … we will honour the commitments that we have made during our membership,” she said. But those commitments were being analysed “line by line” she said, adding: “British taxpayer wouldn’t expect its government to do anything else.”