EU impatient for Brexit talks amid UK post-election chaos

Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street in central London on June 9, 2017 as results from a snap general election show her party has lost their majority.

London (CNN)Five days on from the stalemate of the UK general election result, Europe's impatience with the Britain over Brexit is growing.

EU officials are itching to start Brexit talks, but Prime Minister Theresa May is distracted by negotiations over the make-up of the new British government.
Formal talks were due to start next Monday, June 19, but that date is looking less certain, though May insisted at a press conference with French leader Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening that talks would go ahead next week as planned.
    No-one is clear what the UK wants any more: the hung parliament election result has left May's plans for a clean break with Europe, under a so-called "hard Brexit", in tatters as her emboldened rivals in the UK Parliament demand it is watered down.
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    When the Prime Minister sat down for dinner with Emmanuel Macron in Paris Tuesday evening, the new French President -- who has set out his stall as an EU reformer -- likely reminded her that the clock is ticking. After dinner, the two leaders were due to watch a friendly soccer match between England and France. But even if that game goes into extra time, EU leaders are making clear to May that there can be no extension to the two-year period of negotiation before Britain must leave Europe in March 2019.
    There is frustration among EU leaders and officials that three months have already passed since May triggered Article 50, the device which started the Brexit process. Formal talks were due to start next Monday, June 19, but that date is looking shaky.

    'I can't negotiate with myself'

    In a joint interview with the Financial Times and other European newspapers Tuesday, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, warned there was "no time to waste." He said: "Next week, it will be three months since the sending of the Article 50 letter. We haven't negotiated, we haven't progressed. Thus we must begin this negotiation. We are ready as soon as the UK itself is ready." He added, pointedly: "I can't negotiate with myself."
    Michel Barnier: 'I can't negotiate with myself.'
    Mats Persson, a former EU adviser to David Cameron, told CNN: "What they [Macron and other EU leaders] want is clarity. Theresa May cannot really give him clarity."
    Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, warned the UK risks a "brutal exit" if discussions aren't concluded within two years. In an interview with CNN Money's Europe Editor Nina dos Santos, Verhofstadt said: "This needs to be done before March 29, 2019. Everything has to be behind us otherwise there will be a more brutal exit."
    Asked if there was a possibility of extending negotiations beyond the that deadline, he added: "There is a need to start. Not to extend."Persson said that while March 2019 seemed a long way in the future, "a lot of time has already passed in what is an extremely tight timetable. In terms of everything that has to be negotiated, there is actually very little time."
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    With May's Conservative party not in overall control of the House Commons and with a new government yet to be formed, politicians in favor of a "soft Brexit" -- which is likely to include remaining part of the single market and customs union -- believe the impasse offers an opportunity to get their way.
    Conservative and Labour politicians are discussing privately the possibility of a cross-party commission that would agree a new deal. Even Michael Gove, the senior Conservative who led the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, has suggested a consensus can be reached.

    Brexit consensus?

    Gove, who has just been brought back to May's Cabinet as Environment Secretary, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that it was important to "achieve a deal that can command the widest possible support."
    Yet some of his fellow hard Brexiteers are dismayed at any softening of an agreement with the EU and want the PM to stick to her red line, set out before the election, that "no deal is better than a bad deal."
    EU insiders believe that Brussels negotiators would prefer Britain to present plans for a soft Brexit because it makes the "no deal" scenario, if talks break down by March 2019, less likely.
    Persson, who is now head of international trade at EY, said that while the overall timetable for Brexit cannot now be changed, there was a way for the UK to buy time with Brussels whilst it sorts out its own position on a future relationship with Europe.
    This was because under the agreed sequence of negotiations the so-called "divorce settlement" -- the financial cost to the UK of leaving the EU -- was to be discussed first before talks will begin on a new free trade deal and what the new relationship will look like. Persson said: "Maybe this can now work in the UK's favor because the UK can buy time while the divorce settlement is discussed. In-built into current sequencing there is the opportunity to buy time."