WALK­ING DEAD­LOCK

EU’s man Barnier tells the UK to set­tle bill or risk hard Brexit - but Tories aren’t lis­ten­ing LABOUR ANGER AS PROSPECT OF NO DEAL LOOMS LARGER

Daily Record - - NEWS - TORCUIL CRICH­TON West­min­ster Edi­tor

A HARD Brexit sud­denly be­came a re­al­is­tic prospect yes­ter­day when the EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor said talks were in a “dis­turb­ing state of dead­lock” over Bri­tain’s di­vorce bill.

The pound dropped in value as Michel Barnier said he could not tell lead­ers of the other 27 EU coun­tries that “suf­fi­cient progress” had been made to al­low dis­cus­sions over fu­ture trade re­la­tions to be­gin.

Theresa May’s hopes of an early start to trade talks with the EU suf­fered a se­ri­ous set­back, with De­cem­ber now be­ing seen as the mo­ment when Bri­tain could break off talks and go for a hard Brexit.

Labour warned that would be “cat­a­strophic for jobs and liv­ing stan­dards”.

Barnier will tell the EU27 lead­ers at a sum­mit in Brus­sels next week that ne­go­ti­a­tions about post-Brexit trade deals are out of the ques­tion.

It makes it all but cer­tain that the talks will be de­layed un­til at least the end of the year and will in­crease pres­sure on the Prime Min­is­ter to make prepa­ra­tions for a pos­si­ble “no-deal” Brexit.

Speak­ing along­side UK Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis at the con­clu­sion of the fifth round of for­mal talks in Brus­sels, Barnier said no “great steps for­ward” had been made this week.

He de­scribed a “dis­turb­ing” dead­lock over how much the UK should pay to set­tle com­mit­ments en­tered into as an EU mem­ber.

The main stum­bling block con­tin­ues to be the UK’s re­fusal to ac­cept the EU’s anal­y­sis of what it will owe on leav­ing in March 2019.

Es­ti­mates on the size of the di­vorce bill have var­ied from £54bil­lion to £90bil­lion.

Barnier re­vealed the size of the UK’s Brexit bill had not even been dis­cussed dur­ing this week’s talks, af­ter Bri­tain re­fused to put a fig­ure on the amount it is pre­pared to pay. He said: “I am not able in the cur­rent cir­cum­stances to pro­pose next week to the Euro­pean Coun­cil that we should start dis­cus­sions on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.” The pound im­me­di­ately fell 0.6 per cent against the dol­lar to 1.31 on the news. It also dropped 0.6 per cent to 1.10 eu­ros. Barnier held out the prospect of “de­ci­sive” progress by the time of a Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mit sched­uled for De­cem­ber 14-15. But he in­sisted the EU would not make “con­ces­sions” on their pri­or­i­ties of the rights of EU ci­ti­zens, the sta­tus of the Ir­ish border and the di­vorce bill.

Davis called for Barnier’s ne­go­ti­at­ing man­date to be changed at next week’s sum­mit in or­der to al­low ex­plo­rations of the is­sues around trade.

The Brexit Sec­re­tary said: “I hope the lead­ers of the 27 will pro­vide Michel with the means to ex­plore ways for­ward with us on that and build on the spirit of co-op­er­a­tion we now have.”

But Barnier replied: “To make a suc­cess of the ne­go­ti­a­tions we have got to do things in the right or­der. That is a con­di­tion of suc­cess. If we mix ev­ery­thing up, there are risks.”

He told re­porters: “There is no

ques­tion of mak­ing con­ces­sions on ci­ti­zens’ rights. There is no ques­tion of mak­ing con­ces­sions on the peace process in North­ern Ire­land.

“As re­gards the fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment, there is no ques­tion of mak­ing con­ces­sions on thou­sands of in­vest­ment projects through­out Europe.”

Barnier said the EU were ready to face “any even­tu­al­i­ties” but warned against a fail­ure to se­cure an agree­ment. “No deal will be a very bad deal,” he said.

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Sec­re­tary Keir Starmer ac­cused the Tories of wast­ing months of the Brexit talks fight­ing among them­selves.

He said: “This in­creases the chances that Bri­tain will crash out of the EU with­out a deal.

“That would be cat­a­strophic for jobs and liv­ing stan­dards and must be re­jected as a vi­able op­tion.

“The Govern­ment must must drop their ide­o­log­i­cal red lines and work round the clock to find a res­o­lu­tion.”

SNP MP Stephen Gethins hit out at “the ut­ter ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity and lack of pre­pared­ness on dis­play from the UK Govern­ment”.

He added: “It is as if they have not been in the same room, let alone on the same page as the EU of­fi­cials.

“Brexit poses a real and present dan­ger to op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple in the UK and across the EU.

“As politi­cians we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to give young peo­ple at least the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as we have.

“This is be­ing jeop­ar­dised by a UK Govern­ment who have failed to do their home­work.”

DITHER­ING May has shown no lead­er­ship

POLES APART Davis wants trade talks but Barnier says there’s no chance with­out progress

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