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Barnier: Not Enough Progress Made In Brexit Talks

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

13 October 2017

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said that he is unable to recommend that discussions be opened on the bloc's future relationship with the UK.

The EU has stipulated that "sufficient progress" must be made on three key areas regarding the UK's withdrawal before the focus of the talks can shift to the nature of the future EU-UK relationship. These areas are: citizens' rights, the divorce bill, and issues relating to the island of Ireland.

Speaking after the fifth round of negotiations, Barnier said that "trust is needed between us if this future relationship is to be solid, ambitious, and long-lasting." He added that this trust will come "with clarity and the respect of all commitments made together."

Addressing the progress made in the three key areas, Barnier said that, "as things stand at present," he is not able to recommend to the European Council that discussions be opened on the future relationship. The Council is due to meet on October 19-20, and it had been expected to declare whether "sufficient progress" had been made in phase one of the talks.

Barnier said that the two sides were "at a deadlock" on the question of the financial settlement.

Barnier noted that UK Prime Minister Theresa May had in her recent Florence speech said that the UK "will honor commitments" it had made during its membership of the EU. He described this as "an important commitment," but said that the UK had this week informed the EU "that it still could not clarify these commitments."

Barnier said there had therefore been no negotiation on this subject during this round of talks. Barnier said the "deadlock" is "extremely worrying for European taxpayers and those who benefit from EU policies."

On citizens' rights, Barnier explained that the EU and the UK have two common objectives that they will continue to work to, regarding the guarantee of rights in the long term and the consistent interpretation of these rights in both the EU and the UK. He said that there are still points of divergence on the possibility of family reunification, the exportation and transportability of social benefits, and the right to bring partners into the UK. He added that the UK has informed negotiators of its intention to put in place a simplified procedure for allowing citizens to assert their rights.

More progress has, it seems, been made on issues relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Barnier noted that negotiators have advanced on joint principles on the continuation of the Common Travel Area, and continued intensive work on "mapping out areas of cooperation that operate on a North-South basis on the island."

Barnier did however state that more work must be done to "build up a full picture of the challenges to North-South cooperation resulting from the UK, and therefore Northern Ireland, leaving the EU legal framework."

Barnier said that the EU will not ask the UK to make "concessions," and stressed that the agreement the two sides are working towards will not be built on concessions in these key areas.

The UK's Brexit Secretary, David Davis, struck a more optimistic note in his remarks. He said that "while there is still work to be done, much work to be done, we have come a long way," and that it is "important to recognize the significant progress we have made since June."

Regarding the contentious issue of the divorce settlement, Davis said that the UK has "undertaken a rigorous examination of the technical detail where we need to reach a shared view." He argued that "this is not a process of agreeing specific commitments," and said that the UK has "been clear that this can only come later."

Davis said he hopes that the European Council will recognize the progress that has been made "and take a step forward in the spirit of the Prime Minister's Florence speech."

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | Ireland | export duty | trade treaty | United Kingdom | agreements | import duty | trade | European Union (EU) | Travel | Europe

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