The United Kingdom is wondering if it should take part in the first meeting of countries that could be part of the project for a “European political community” presented by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Czech European Affairs Minister Mikuláš Bek said the UK would be invited, along with representatives from Israel and Western Balkan states, to next month’s EU leaders’ meeting in Prague.
The timing could be a problem, however, with the Prague summit due to be held on October 6, the last day of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham, which will be the first decisive opportunity for new Prime Minister Liz Truss to set out her government’s priorities. .
Turkey, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are also expected to receive invitations.
The idea of a political forum to bring together countries outside the EU that share the bloc’s values on trade, rule of law and politics was touted earlier this year by Macron. Truss initially ruled out UK membership despite his predecessor Boris Johnson expressing some enthusiasm for him.
British officials are asking for assurances that European institutions and political leaders will not dominate the forum.
When it comes to the UK’s post-Brexit outlook, a trade pact with the US has always been held up as an example of how the UK should revamp its trading relationship outside the EU. The US is currently the UK’s fifth largest export market.
But the trade deal with the United States is still many years away, Prime Minister Liz Truss conceded on Monday.
En route to New York, where Truss will hold bilateral meetings with US President Joe Biden and EU leaders and attend the UN General Assembly, Truss told reporters that “there are currently no no ongoing negotiations with the United States, and I’m not doing it”. I expect these to start in the short to medium term.
Truss was quickly promoted following the Brexit referendum in June 2016 and was responsible for brokering post-EU trade deals between the UK and third countries between 2019 and 2021. These include deals with New Zealand, Canada and Australia, all former British colonies.
However, momentum for a UK-US deal has evaporated since Joe Biden beat Donald Trump for the presidency in November 2020, prompting UK officials to admit it is no longer a priority in Washington. Trump had promised an ambitious trade pact with London.
(Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)