EU, Britain in deadlock over Brexit
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.