Czechs and rest of EU seek to set Brexit tactics at extraordinary summit

Foto: Daniel Diaz Bardillo, Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

The Czech Republic joins the 26 other EU member states in Brussels on Saturday to agree a common negotiating line with the United Kingdom over Brexit. It will be all about the tactics for the expectedly tough talks with the main emphasis being on the rest of the EU reading from the same page.

Jan Thompson, photo: Ondřej Tomšů
Saturday’s extraordinary summit is the first time that EU leaders minus Britain are meeting to discuss their Brexit tactics. The initial move was made by British prime minister Theresa May with her official leaving announcement exactly a month earlier. And that laid out its strategy and tactics. As the British Ambassador to Prague, Jan Thompson, told Radio Prague back then, one of the key aims was for ongoing parallel two track talks about Britain’s exit and future relationship with the EU:

"You talked also about the trade agreement and the sequencing of this sort of thing: we do think it is important to agree the terms of our future partnership with the European Union alongside the terms of our withdrawal. Apart from anything else, it helps to ensure certainty and confidence for our people, for our businesses, for investors, on both sides about what the future will hold.ʺ

But European Council president Donald Tusk has recommended a different line to take with the British, basically he wants the substantial progress in dealing with the past relationship and divorce, including the status of Czechs in Britain and British citizens in the Czech Republic, before the future can be dealt with. The basic line is get the past over before dealing with the future or get Britain out first of all before dealing with future ties. And above all, the point has been hammered home that the remaining EU countries must not open up any separate talks with Britain that would weaken their common negotiating position.

Michal Kořan is a senior researcher at the Prague-based Institute for International Relation. He says so far there has been a solid backing for this proposed negotiating stand including at a meeting of foreign ministers, including Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek, on Thursday.

Photo: Daniel Diaz Bardillo, Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain
But he warns that that united line facing the United Kingdom might be vulnerable given the many upcoming elections:

ʺOn the other hand we still have the UK elections, we have the French elections, and we have the German elections later. So despite the fact that the guidelines are saying that there will be no bilateral negotiations between individual member countries and Britain, we will have to see what happens after these crucial elections in the future"

Mr Kořan says so far there have been no signs of breakaway positions on Brexit from the remaining EU countries and that could well be confirmed by Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his counterparts at the summit. Kořan does, however, highlight the fact that the Czech Republic and other Central European countries are pushing for priority to be given to sealing a new defence and security relationship with Britain. He suggests that could give London a trump card or two in a hand which doesn’t appear overwhelming strong.