EU's Brexit negotiator tells United Kingdom to speed up and 'get serious'

The belief within May's government is that it is impossible to make "sufficient progress" on preliminary issues like the divorce bill without at the same time addressing what the future UK-EU relationship will look like.

In a statement today (Tuesday August 30) Downing Street defended the latest tranche of Brexit papers prepared by Britain's negotiators, which have been heavily criticised by Juncker. The UK is set to leave in March 2019, with or without an agreement, and the European Union won't even talk about transition arrangements until it's satisfied the divorce settlement is on track. Barnier, he said, had firm instructions from the other 27 governments on the phasing of talks, even if he accepted that some issues could not be fully settled without knowing how trade will work.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has insisted the United Kingdom is making the running in Brexit negotiations following criticism from Brussels about a lack of clarity from her government.

The UK has asked for more Brexit negotiating sessions with its European counterparts, according to a person familiar with the discussions, as the latest round of talks showed little sign of progress amid public criticism from each side.

Juncker said there has to be "sufficient progress" in negotiations over the rights of European Union citizens, Northern Ireland's border and the exit bill before any post-Brexit arrangements.

Mr Juncker's comments came after Brussels" chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he was concerned about a lack of clarity, and insisted "we must start negotiating seriously'.

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Mr Juncker yesterday said official papers setting out the Government's positions were not satisfactory and it was "crystal clear" that an "enormous amount" of issues needed to be settled before talks on a future trade deal could begin.

"To be flexible you need two points, our point and their point", Barnier told reporters on the sidelines of talks in Brussels on Wednesday.

Mrs May dismissed Labour's new support for remaining in the single market and customs union during a transitional period after Brexit as "yet another position from them".

"We can not mix these issues up", he said.

This round of talks will wrap up on Thursday with a joint Barnier-Davis press conference, but official on boths sides have cautioned against expecting very more than limited progress on specific technical issues.

  • Adam Floyd