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EU mulls Brexit summit gesture, May hints on cash

From Reuters - October 13, 2017

LUXEMBOURG/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU governments wrangled on Friday over a goodwill gesture to Theresa May that some hope might break deadlock in Brexit talks but others fear may let Britain dodge demands for tens of billions of euros.

The British prime minister indicated she too might make a move at next weeks Brussels summit. A spokeswoman said there will be more to say there on a promise May made last month to honor financial commitments when Britain leaves.

But Germany was leading a hardline camp wary of a proposal by summit chair Donald Tusk to tell May next week that the EU will start internal work on a post-Brexit transition plan despite her failure so far to spell out exactly what London is ready to pay in a divorce settlement which Brussels puts at roughly 60 billion euros ($70 billion).

This is a very big gesture toward Britain, maybe way too big, a senior EU diplomat said ahead of an evening meeting of envoys from the 27 remaining states to discuss Tusks draft for a statement to made after leaders meet in a weeks time.

Time is running out, German Chancellor Angela Merkels spokesman warned after week of stalemate in negotiations and faction-fighting within Mays government that have raised concerns that talks could collapse, leaving Britain bumping out into legal limbo in March 2019.

Hammering the point, EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said in Luxembourg: They have to pay. They have to pay.

Businesses planning investment decisions are calling for a clear idea by the new year of how the split and subsequent years of transition to a new trade relationship will function. Otherwise, some firms say, they may assume a disruptive hard Brexit and move some operations to continental Europe.

SEARCH AND RESCUE MISSION

As the process approaches the half-way stage between last Junes shock referendum vote for Brexit and Britains departure on March 30, 2019, tensions are building not just between the two negotiating sides but also within the bloc of 27, despite a strong sense that sticking to a common line is a major advantage for every state, whatever their differing national interests.

While hardliners would prefer less or no talk of a future after Brexit and more about demanding money, others are keen to give May, beleaguered at home, something to show for the effort to compromise she displayed in a speech at Florence last month.

One diplomat called the draft a search and rescue mission to help the British premier out of a jam. Another said it was a bid to break stalemate and avert disaster over the winter:

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