The prominent MEP said Brexit talks will likely remain stuck on phase one until 2018.
LONDON — Brexit talks are unlikely to move onto the future relationship before 2018, a prominent European Parliamentarian and ally of Angela Merkel said on Tuesday morning.
In a blow to Theresa May and Brexit Secretary David Davis, German MEP Manfred Weber told journalists: "In December, it doesn't look like negotiations are going to move onto the second phase to talk about the future."
The British side hopes that "sufficient progress" will be made on the issues of citizens' rights, the Irish border and Britain's financial obligations in order for talks to move onto future UK-EU relations in December.
However, the EU is set to decide by the end of this month whether the next phase of negotiations on Britain's future relationship with the EU, which will cover a possible transition deal, can get underway next month.
Weber poured cold water on Britain's hopes of talks progressing next month ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister May at Downing Street on Wednesday.
"Theresa May has asked for talks — she knows that the negotiations are in a decisive phase," Weber told members of the European press.
Weber leads the European Parliament's biggest conservative bloc and is chair of the centre-right European People’s party, of which German Chancellor Merkel is a leading figure.
His comments follow Michel Barnier warning Britain that it must make its position on the so-called divorce bill clear in the next weeks for talks to move onto the next stage.
"If there is not real and sincere progress that will put back the opening of discussions on the future — that includes transition," Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, said last week.
Earlier this morning, the EU Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, reiterated that the Parliament would not accept any Brexit deal that doesn't guarantee EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU the rights they currently enjoy.
The Parliament's aim is "giving the exact same rights as they have today," Verhofstadt told journalists.
"Our aim is nothing is changing. They [citizens] can simply continue rights as they have them now."
The EU Parliament will vote to either accept or reject any final deal at the end of the Article 50 process.
"For European Parliament and steering group inside European Parliament, our priority is to have a good arrangement on citizens' rights. Not only rights of EU citizens in the UK but UK citizens in the EU. What we absolutely want to avoid is citizens being victims of Brexit," Verhofstadt explained.
"What we absolutely want to avoid is citizens being victims of Brexit."