Brexit talks hit cash impasse

British Prime Minister, Theresa May
British Prime Minister, Theresa May

British and EU negotiators hit a dead-end over money in four days of talks, the EU’s Michel Barnier said on Thursday as he ruled out discussions on future trade being allowed to start by EU leaders coming week.

However, Mr. Barnier told a news conference that there was some movement on other elements of Britain’s divorce settlement.

He spoke of possibly acceding in the next two months to British demands for talks on a trade pact and a transition period after withdrawal in March 2019, if the political will would be there.

Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said Britain was still pushing for EU leaders to give a green light to those talks on the future relationship when they meet Prime Minister Theresa May at an EU summit in Brussels on October 19.

Mr. Barnier made clear, however, that in spite of new momentum from concessions given by May in a speech at Florence on Sept. 22, the British positions on money, expatriate citizens’ rights and the Irish border still fell short of the “significant progress’’.

May said Britain would ensure that the other 27 countries do not lose out financially from Brexit in the current EU budget period to 2020 and would honour commitments.

However, Barnier said London was failing to spell out just what it was ready to pay.

“Regarding that question we are at an impasse, which is very worrying for thousands of projects everywhere in Europe and also worrying for those who contribute.

“I am still convinced that, with political will, decisive progress is within reach in the coming two months.

“With David Davis, we will organise several negotiating meetings between now and the end of the year.

“We worked in a constructive spirit, and we clarified certain points, without, however, making any great steps forward.”

Mr. Davis recognised that much work was to be done, but said he was confident an agreement on citizens’ rights could come soon, notably regarding how those rights would be guaranteed in courts.

Mr. Barnier repeated Brussels’ desire to see EU citizens in Britain having recourse to EU judges but London has been refusing to accept that.

“I make no secret of the fact that to provide certainty we must talk about the future, I hope the leaders of the 27 will provide Michel with the means to explore ways forward with us on that.

“As we look to the October Council next week, I hope the member states will recognise the progress we’ve made and take a step forward in the spirit of the prime minister’s Florence speech,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Barnier was pressed to say in public whether he would ask EU leaders’ permission to make some preliminary exploration of what a transition after March 2019 would look like.

EU officials and diplomats say he has raised that issue with governments.

He, however, told newsmen that he would follow a mandate ruling out any discussion of the future before issues arising from Britain’s past membership are settled and said it was important to respect the “sequencing’’.

(Reuters/NAN)


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