‘Disturbing’ deadlock in EU talks, warns Barnier
Chief negotiator says deal on divorce bill must come before trade discussions
Theresa May’s hope for an early start to trade talks has been dealt a blow by Brussels declaring a “disturbing” deadlock in Brexit negotiations.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said they cannot move on to discussing future trading arrangements because there has not been enough progress in settling the divorce bill.
Speaking alongside Brexit secretary David Davis at the conclusion of the fifth round of formal talks in the Belgian capital, Mr Barnier said no “great steps forward” had been made.
He revealed the size of the UK’s Brexit bill had not even been discussed during this week’s negotiations, after Britain refused to put a figure on the amount it was prepared to pay.
“On this basis 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,” he said.
UK ministers are desperate to begin trade talks aimed at securing high levels of access to the Europe’s lucrative single market, but Brussels has ruled that cannot be done unless substantial progress is made on Britain’s exit payment, the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
Mr Davis urged EU leaders to change Mr Barnier’s negotiating mandate at next week’s summit in order to allow initial explorations of the issues around trade.
To give certainty to businesses and consumers, Britain and the EU “must talk about the future”, said the Brexit secretary.
“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 cooperation we now have.”
Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, bemoaned the “brick wall approach” of the UK Government to negotiations.
He said it is “as if the UK Government has not been in the same room, let alone on the same page” as EU officials.
Mr Gethins also said it was “deeply worrying” that Brexit meant future generations would miss out on studying abroad.
The Erasmus exchange programme will be lost to UK students after Brexit.
“This is deeply worrying for all those who hoped to enrich their education with these kind of experiences,” he said.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier addresses the media in Brussels yesterday.