British prime Minister Theresa May is negotiating Brexit – but do the people she’s sitting at the table with really have the power to agree how Britain leaves the European Union?
The EU negotiating team made a great play before the talks started about presenting a united front and how the negotiators spoke for everyone.
But in recent weeks a split seems to be widening between the civil servants leading the talks from the European Commission and their political masters in the European Parliament.
In a joint letter to European media, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have flexed their muscles and pointed out that regardless of what is agreed around the table in Brussels, they have the final say on if a deal is accepted or rejected.
Demand for clarity
The same goes in the UK. The government is talking to the EU but the Brexit deal will have to go before Parliament for a final stamp of approval.
The letter complaining about May’s offer to protect the rights of EU citizens already in the UK is the first debating point and already shows who holds the real power in the EU.
Around two-thirds of the 750 MEPs singed up to the letter, which is enough to defeat any proposal from the European Commission leading the talks.
The latest message from chief negotiator Michel Barnier is Britain must provide clarity on several issues before trade talks can start.
Whipping up support
Although that sounds more of a demand than negotiation, Barnier has also revealed he will meet UK politicians who are not in government, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the first ministers in Scotland and Wales. The trio are all critics of the government’s approach to Brexit.
The move is seen as Barnier whipping up support from May’s opposition in Britain while increasing pressure on the government to agree to his Brexit approach.
“I have always made clear that I will listen to different points on view in the British debate,” he said.
“Of course, I will only negotiate with the UK government.”