The European Union warned Britain today that negotiations over its exit from the bloc have so far failed to make enough headway for discussions on a future trade deal to begin in October.
Following four days of talks, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we are far from seeing sufficient progress” for him to be able to tell EU leaders that enough progress has been made for talks on a future relationship to begin.
The EU has insisted that it wants three main topics dealt with before discussions can move onto future trade arrangements. The EU wants issues related to citizens’ rights, Britain’s divorce payment and issues related to the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland to be resolved before the trade talks can begin.
He warned that with “every passing day we move closer to the date of departure.” Britain, which triggered the two-year Brexit deadline in March, has hoped that discussions over the future relationship could commence as soon as October.
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis conceded that “significant differences” remain and called on the EU to show “flexibility” to break the logjam in talks. Barnier said the EU was ready to intensify the pace of the negotiations. Davis singled out the outstanding financial commitments Britain will need to make to the EU.
There have been estimates that Britain’s bill to cover commitments it has made could be around 60 billion euros (USD 71 billion). Many in the British government have balked at anything that high.
“We have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it rigorously,” Davis said.