EU, Bri­tain in dead­lock over Brexit

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International - By Lorne Cook and Jill Law­less

As­so­ci­ated Press

BRUS­SELS — Brexit talks have hit a dead­lock on the key is­sue of Bri­tain’s exit bill in the di­vorce, the Euro­pean Union’s chief ne­go­tia­tor said Thurs­day, adding that the slow-mov­ing talks won’t be broad­ened any­time soon to in­clude fu­ture trade re­la­tions.

Giv­ing a down­beat as­sess­ment of the lat­est round of ne­go­ti­a­tions, EU ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier said de­spite the talks’ re­cent “con­struc­tive spirit ... we haven’t made any great steps for­ward.”

On the ques­tion of how much Bri­tain has to pay to set­tle its fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments to the bloc, he said: “We have reached a state of dead­lock, which is dis­turb­ing.”

Mr. Barnier said he would not be able to rec­om­mend to EU lead­ers meet­ing next week that “suf­fi­cient progress” has been made to broaden the talks to dis­cussing fu­ture EU-Bri­tish re­la­tions, in­clud­ing trade.

The lead­ers meet in Brus­sels on Oct. 19-20, and with time short to seal a deal it had been hoped they would agree to widen the talks.

The EU says this can only hap­pen when there has been progress on the is­sues of the fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment, the rights of ci­ti­zens af­fected by Brexit and the sta­tus of the North­ern Ire­land-Ire­land border.

Bri­tain is on track to leave the 28-na­tion bloc in March 2019. Many busi­nesses are wor­ried that Bri­tain could leave the EU with­out a trade deal in place, caus­ing tar­iffs on ex­ports from both sides, reams of red tape and chaos at Euro­pean ports.

The Bri­tish pound fell Thurs­day on news of the slow progress, trad­ing 0.6 per­cent lower at $1.3142.

Bri­tain says its exit terms are closely in­ter­twined with those on fu­ture re­la­tions like trade and must be dis­cussed to­gether.

“I hope the mem­ber states will see the progress we have made and take a step for­ward” next week, Bri­tish Brexit en­voy David Davis told re­porters.

“We would like them to give Michel the means to broaden the ne­go­ti­a­tions. It’s up to them whether they do it. Clearly I think it’s in the in­ter­ests of the United King­do­mand the Euro­pean Union thatthey do,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Barnier said the two would work to achieve “suf­fi­cient progress” in time for a sub­se­quent meet­ing of EU lead­ers in De­cem­ber.

Bri­tain is to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but the talks must be com­pleted within about a year to leave time for EU states’ na­tional par­lia­ments to rat­ify the Brexit agree­ment.

Euro­pean es­ti­mates on the size of the di­vorce bill have var­ied from around 60 bil­lion eu­ros to 100 bil­lion eu­ros ($70 bil­lion to $120 bil­lion), but Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment has re­jected such num­bers with­out clearly ex­plain­ing how the amountshould be cal­cu­lated.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions ap­pear to be mov­ing at a snail’s pace and each round leaves a sense of deja vu, with Mr. Barnier lament­ing the lack of move­ment and Mr. Davis ap­peal­ing for more Euro­pean flex­i­bil­ity.

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