‘Dis­turb­ing’ dead­lock in EU talks, warns Barnier

Chief ne­go­tia­tor says deal on di­vorce bill must come be­fore trade dis­cus­sions

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - Gareth McPher­soN Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor gm­cpher­son@the­courier.co.uk

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.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages.

The EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier ad­dresses the me­dia in Brus­sels yes­ter­day.

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