- Brexit negotiations have stalled over the divorce bill despite Theresa May’s “generous offer” of €20 billion. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier insisted that “sufficient progress” needed to be made on separation issues, and talks could not move onto transition arrangements. Brexit Secretary David Davis said there are “no excuses” for not allowing progress during the fourth round of Brexit talks.
- Reuters/Francois Lenoir
LONDON – Brexit negotiations have stalled over the divorce bill and the EU is rejecting Theresa May’s request for talks to move onto discussions about a transition period.
Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier clashed during a press conference on Monday after the first day of the fourth round of Brexit talks.
Davis said there would be “no excuses” for blocking progress this week.
Barnier said that the prime minister’s offer of a €20 billion divorce bill did not mean that negotiators could begin to discuss transition arrangements or the future
“It remains more necessary than ever to create the trust that we need to set up and build upon our future relationship,” the EU’s chief negotiator said.
He made it clear that his mandate only covered divorce issues and “sufficient progress” needed to be made on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the financial settlement before talks could move on.
The government and May had hoped that the “generous offer” of €20 billion, made during the prime minister’s Florence speech, would pave the way for talks to advance.
Davis told Barnier that there “could be no excuses of standing in the way” of progress this week and it was “obvious” that the divorce bill could only be negotiated alongside the future relationship between the UK and EU.
The EU’s stance will anger Brexit supporters in the government, including Boris Johnson, who believe that the EU is deliberately making it difficult for the UK in negotiations.
Ireland puts pressure on Britain
During a visit to Downing Street, the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar added to the pressure for the British side to offer more on the key separation issues before talks on a future relationship are allowed.
Varadkar said: “I don’t think at this stage it would be possible to say that sufficient progress has been made but it may well be possible by the end of October when we meet up in Brussels.”
The European Council, made up of the EU27 member states, will decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made in Brexit negotiations in order to give Barnier a mandate to allow talks to advance.
Following a meeting with European Council ministers, Barnier said: “A discussion that is going to take place because the UK is asking for it on this transitional period does not mean we will no longer need to achieve sufficient progress.
“We are not going to mix up discussions on debts and discussion on the past commitments. We are not going to mix up those subjects, which are part of an orderly withdrawal, on a discussion of our future relationship.”
“No excuses” for no progress
David said he hoped that negotiators would build on May’s speech last week, and the UK is “absolutely committed to working through the detail.”
He added: “We are laying out concrete proposals and there are no excuses for standing in the way of progress … It will take pragmatism from both sides to make headway and I hope we can achieve that this week.”
The pair disagreed over the nature of the transition period after Davis claimed that Britain would not have to remain under EU law immediately after Brexit.
Barnier said: “The EU has to decide whether to have a transitional period and whether it is in its interest. Any transition has to respect the regulatory and financial framework of the single market.
“As we said, we are talking about prolonging and extending EU legislation for a certain amount of time. That would mean we would have to continue with [such] things as the budget, supervision, judicial control and controls of EU rules and regulations. So that would have to continue to apply.”
Cabinet ministers have clashed in recent weeks over the nature of transition, with Johnson, the foreign secretary, insisting that no new EU laws or regulations should be implemented during the period, while Chancellor Philip Hammond that it might need to last longer than two years.