Abta17: Brexit talks ‘stuck’ and EU ‘playing hard ball’

Abta17: Brexit talks ‘stuck’ and EU ‘playing hard ball’

Brexit talks are “at an impasse” and the industry should be prepared for the EU to “drive a very hard bargain”.

That is the view of Peter Foster, Europe editor of The Telegraph, who told Abta’s Travel Convention: “Things are at an impasse.

“They are stuck. There is politics on both sides, and getting over the hump is going to require some political courage.”

Foster said: “The Europeans are playing hard ball. Theresa May said this week ‘The ball is in your court’ and [EU chief negotiator] Michel Barnier said ‘No, it is in yours.

“May played hardball in July, but then made a whole bunch of concessions [in her speech in Florence in September].

“The Europeans don’t believe the threats. They believe May will fold. They feel they can sit on their hands and watch us sweat.”

He warned: “Things are going to get tougher. We have to be open eyed about how the EU will defend its interests.”

However, Foster said: “I believe there will be a deal. Politicians don’t like to create chaos. But the deal will be pretty minimal in the first instance.

He warned: “When we get into the second phase of the negotiations we’ll think this was the easy part. The Europeans will drive a very hard bargain.”

Foster argued Brexit should be viewed in the context of “what some people are calling a geo-political recession”.

He said: “Europe is crying out for strong and stable governments and can’t deliver it. That is overlaid on two other issues – on wage stagnation and technological disruption, with terrorism and migration layered on top. That is the context.”

Abta director of public affairs Alan Wardle said: “The challenge at the moment is the sense of uncertainty.”

But he added: “The travel industry is very resilient and has had to deal with and adapt to the problems of the day for years.

“The biggest risk to customers around Brexit is that people won’t feel confident to travel. We want to keep confidence up, and we want a sensible, pragmatic deal.”

Travel Weekly’s full coverage of The Travel Convention

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