Brussels is scared the next stage of talks will expose deep divisions among the 27 member states as countries will not want their trade harmed in order to punish Britain.
Eurocrats are said to be desperately plotting to maintain the bloc’s unity in the face of these competing national interests.
Under one plan they will try to block talks on access to the single market for Britain’s financial services until the eleventh hour – with one official warning a ‘high price’ will have to be paid.
And under another strategy the EU are expected to demand the UK is tied in to EU rules and regulations in return for access to the single market.
This would set the stage for a major clash between Brussels and Britain as many backed Brexit to free the UK from EU red tape.
Theresa May, pictured earlier this month with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, managed to get the EU to agree to move on to trade talks this year. And the EU is said to be scared that negotiations will expose deep divisions among member states as countries will not want to see their trade and economies harmed to punish Britain
While many leading Brexiteers, including Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, have called for a new era of more liberal markets when we quit the bloc.
One senior EU official said next year’s crunch post-Brexit trade talks will pose far harder problems for the EU as national interests jostle.
They told The Times: ‘That is where it becomes frankly complicated for our side. Once you go into individual sectors then interests differ.’
While negotiators will also block talks on the City keeping access to the single market and the flying rights of UK-owed airplanes util the eleventh hour.
One EU Commission figure told the newspaper: ‘Why would we give these away? In return for what? The question of financial services and aviation will be settled at the end of the negotiations and the price will be high.’
Theresa May, pictured heading into Church with her husband Philip on Christmas Day, is battling to get Britain a good Brexit deal. But the EU is said to be planning to block talks on access to the single market for Britain’s financial services until the eleventh hour – with one official warning a ‘high price’ will have to be paid.
The EU sells more into Britain than vice versa and a number of industries across the bloc – from French fishing to German car manufacturing – rely on Britain’s big consumer market.
And many countries are said to be furious at expectations among some EU leaders that they will back a deal which harms their economy just to punish Britain for Brexit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that even if Europe finds Brexit painful this will be nothing compared to the UK.
But her comments are said to have sparked a furious response from some countries with one Prime Minister reportedly saying: ‘I hope no one is suggesting that my country’s interests should be sacrificed in the EU’s name.’
Theresa May finally secured agreement from the EU to move on to trade talks earlier this month after intense negotiation and wrangling.