- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
- Brexit talks set to be delayed after discussions hit “deadlock” over the Brexit divorce bill. EU chief negotiator says there is “no question” of the EU making concessions. David Davis insists progress has been made. Trade talks now likely to be held back until next year.
LONDON – Brexit negotiations have hit a “deadlock” over the size of Britain’s divorce bill, the EU’s chief negotiator said today as he confirmed he would recommend talks on a Brexit trade deal should be delayed at least until the end of the year.
Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs earlier this week that there was now a “momentum” to Brexit talks adding that the “ball is [in the EU’s] court.”
However, Michel Barnier said on Thursday that there was “no question” of the EU making concessions on the financial commitments Britain must meet before any Brexit deal can be agreed.
“There is no question of making concessions on citizens rights … no question on Northern Ireland and there’s no question of making concessions of thousands of projects across Europe” that would be paid for by the divorce bill, he said.
He said the UK had refused to enter negotiations over the size of the divorce bill and added that the failure to progress talks on this issue was “very disturbing” for both the EU and the UK.
Because of the failure to resolve these issues, Barnier said he could not recommend starting talks on any future trade deal with the UK.
“On this basis I am not able under the current circumstances to propose next week to the European Council that we should start discussions on the future relationship,” he said.
Watch Michel Barnier: We have hit deadlock
— Bloomberg Brexit (@Brexit) October 12, 2017
Speaking alongside the UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis at the end of the final round of the first phase of Brexit talks, Barnier said that while some details had been clarified, there had been “no great step forward” in negotiations.
However he added that “decisive progress” could be “within our grasp within the next two months.”
He also insisted that Theresa May “could find a way out of this deadlock” if she changed Britain’s position on the divorce bill and other divorce issues.
Barnier is reportedly keen to move the talks on, but is facing opposition from Germany and other member states who insist that Britain must first settle its financial contributions to the EU.
Barnier has been instructed to follow the mandate given to him by member states that there must be “sufficient progress” on divorce proceedings before trade talks can begin.
Discussions over citizens rights and the question of what will happen to the Northern Ireland border have also yet to be settled in talks, Barnier said, although Davis insisted significant progress had been made.
Davis tried to appeal to individual EU member states to intervene to progress the talks.
“I hope the member states will recognise the progress we’ve made and take a step forward in the spirit of the PM’s Florence speech,” he said.
He added: “Our aim is to provide as much certainty as possible to business, citizens and the European Union.
“And on this we are making real and tangible progress.”
Labour calls for emergency talks
- Reuters/Francois Lenoir
Business groups expressed their concern about the delay to talks.
“With negotiations at such a vital juncture, talk of a deadlock will be deeply concerning to many businesses in the UK and the rest of Europe,” Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said.
“Both sides must show the leadership and determination to get the talks moving more quickly because jobs and investment across Europe depend upon it.”
The Labour party called on the government to launch an extra round of “emergency” negotiations with the EU, in order to prevent the next phase of talks being delayed next week.
“Today’s press conference confirms that the Government has failed to meet the target for this round of negotiations,” shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Ministers have wasted months of the Brexit talks fighting amongst themselves. This increases the chances that Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal. That would be catastrophic for jobs and living standards and must be rejected as a viable option. “That is why I have written to David Davis calling on the Government urgently to request an additional emergency round of talks with EU negotiators in the coming days to try and reach an agreement before next week’s EU Council meeting. “The Government must recognise the gravity of the situation. They must drop their ideological red lines and work round the clock to find a resolution to the current situation.”