No talks on new ties be­fore Brexit is­sues set­tled, EU of­fi­cial says

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

BRUSSELS — For the sec­ond day in a row, the Euro­pean Union chas­tised Bri­tain for be­ing slow and un­fo­cused in its ap­proach to the Brexit di­vorce pro­ceed­ings, which are en­ter­ing their sixth month with pre­cious little to show for them.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker said Tues­day that af­ter as­sess­ing the latest batch of po­si­tion pa­pers from Lon­don, “None of them give me any real sat­is­fac­tion. So there are many ques­tions that re­main to be re­solved.”

Bri­tain trigged the twoyear ne­go­ti­at­ing win­dow on March 29, then sur­pris­ingly called a snap elec­tion in which Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May lost her over­all ma­jor­ity. Talks ef­fec­tively only started in June.

The third round of high­level talks is on­go­ing this week and Juncker re­in­forced the com­ments of his chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier on Mon­day that the May’s gov- ern­ment is too slow out of the blocks and that key sep­a­ra­tion is­sues need to be set­tled be­fore both sides can as­sess a future trade and po­lit­i­cal re- la­tion­ship. Bri­tain is keen to have both in lock­step.

While Bri­tish ne­go­tia­tor David Davis called for “flex­i­bil­ity and imag­i­na­tion” to move on all is­sues, Juncker said in some of his clear­est com­ments so far, that “it must be made ul­tra-clear that we will not un­der­take any ne­go­ti­a­tion on the con­tin­u­a­tion of events” be­fore the key di­vorce is­sues are set­tled first.

Juncker said that “we can’t mix things up” and in­sisted “first re­solve the past be­fore imag­in­ing the future.”

The EU wants to dis­cuss the rights of cit­i­zens re­sid­ing in each other’s ar­eas af­ter the breakup, the sit­u­a­tion on the Ir­ish bor­der and the out­stand­ing bill Bri­tain still has to pay be­fore things can move on. There has been no de­ci­sive break­through on any of them so far.

The 27 other EU na­tions have said they will have to judge whether there is “suf­fi­cient progress” on those sep­a­ra­tion is­sues be­fore talks on a future trade and po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ship can start.

Both sides are fac­ing a March 2019 dead­line to seal a deal to dis­en­tan­gle Bri­tain from the EU and to bro­ker the terms of their post-split re­la­tion­ship. The bulk of the ne­go­ti­a­tions need to wrap up in the fall of next year to al­low for for­mal rat­i­fi­ca­tion by both sides.

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