Brexit talks at ‘dis­turb­ing’ stand-off

Barnier says sides are dead­locked over how much Bri­tain should pay when it leaves UK and EU ne­go­tia­tors to ‘move heaven and earth’ to get agree­ment on Ir­ish is­sues

The Irish Times - - World News - PATRICK SMYTH in Brus­sels

The EU/UK Brexit talks have hit an im­passe over the UK’s Brexit bill, the EU’schief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier told jour­nal­ists in Brus­sels yes­ter­day.

He blamed the dead­lock squarely on the UK’s fail­ure to put in writ­ing un­der­tak­ings given by prime min­is­ter Theresa May in Florence last month that she would hon­our all the fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments un­der­taken by the UK as a mem­ber.

He said, to no one’s sur­prise, that he would not be in a po­si­tion now to rec­om­mend to the EU sum­mit next week that the talks had achieved “suf­fi­cient progress” to move to their next phase, which is dis­cus­sions of the EU/UK fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

Speak­ing at the end of the fifth round of Brexit “di­vorce” talks, Mr Barnier said the week had not seen any great steps for­ward, although some progress had been made on the post-Brexit rights of Bri­tish cit­i­zens in the EU and EU27 cit­i­zens in the UK.

On Ire­land, both ne­go­tia­tors echoed vir­tu­ally the same words that they have used at the end of each of the pre­ced­ing rounds. They talked gen­er­ally of progress and said dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing on the prin­ci­ples sur­round­ing the Com­mon Travel Area, and on the de­tailed map­ping of North-South co-op­er­a­tion aris­ing from the Belfast Agree­ment.

They re­mained ut­terly com­mit­ted to safe­guard­ing the gains of the Belfast Agree­ment “in all its di­men­sions”.

Both men re­it­er­ated that they see any so­lu­tion emerg­ing to the chal­lenges fac­ing Ire­land as “unique” and Mr Barnier em­pha­sised it would not be set­ting any prece­dent. But he was con­vinced that they will get an agree­ment and will “move heaven and earth to do so”.

The UK’s Brexit sec­re­tary David Davis said we “are de­ter­mined to tackle the unique cir­cum­stances of North­ern Ire­land by fo­cus­ing creatively on spe­cific so­lu­tions and we have be­gun to do so”.

Im­por­tant dif­fer­ences still re­main on cit­i­zens’ rights, no­tably on how they will be en­forced, and specif­i­cally on the role of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice. In re­sponse to EU con­cerns at the bu­reau­cracy many face, Mr Davis an­nounced a “stream­lined” new sys­tem for the three mil­lion EU cit­i­zens in Bri­tain to claim res­i­dence rights.

He listed some of the is­sues on which agree­ment had yet to be reached:

* the right to bring in fu­ture fam­ily mem­bers;

* to ex­port a range of ben­e­fits; * to con­tinue to en­joy the recog­ni­tion of pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions;

* to vote in lo­cal elec­tions;

‘‘

UK de­mand for its cit­i­zens on the con­ti­nent to have life­time rights to move to any EU coun­try after Brexit is held up

* to move within the 27 as a UK ci­ti­zen;

* to leave for a pro­longed pe­riod and yet con­tinue to en­joy a right to re­main or per­ma­nent right of res­i­dence on re­turn.

A Bri­tish de­mand for its mil­lion or so cit­i­zens on the con­ti­nent to have life­time rights to move to any of the EU’s 27 coun­tries after Brexit is held up by doubts among mem­ber states. Mr Barnier said those are rights to do with post-Brexit de­ci­sions and should be dealt with in the next phase of talks.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: OLIVIER HOSLET/EPA

UK’s Brexit sec­re­tary David Davis (left) and the EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier at a press brief­ing after the lat­est Brexit talks.

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