- Francois Lenoir/Reuters
- Michel Barnier says it could take “weeks or even months” until Brexit talks move onto the next stage. The EU’s chief Brexit coordinator says “important progress” has been made but large hurdles remain. Barnier said there is “no possible link” between divorce talks and future relations. Brexit Secretary David Davis says both sides made “decisive steps forward.”
LONDON – Brexit talks have seen “important progress” but it could still be “weeks or even months” until they can move onto the next stage, according to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Speaking at a joint press conference with UK Brexit Secretary David Davis on Thursday morning, Barnier said Theresa May’s Florence speech had “created a new dynamic” in talks but key differences in negotiating positions remained.
In particular, the two sides are yet to reach agreements on the issues of Britain’s financial obligations and the role of ECJ judges after Brexit, Barnier said this morning. He added that a “big gap” remains between Britain and the EU on the issue of family reunification for EU citizens living in Britain.
However, Barnier said the two sides that EU citizens “will be able to invoke their rights, as defined by the Withdrawal Agreement before the UK courts” after Brexit and that the UK has agreed to “give direct effect to the withdrawal agreement,” which he described as “very important.”
On Britain’s financial obligations, sometimes referred to as the “divorce bill,” Barnier said: “Commitments undertaken at 28 [member states] must be honoured at 28.”
“We had a constructive discussion and we made progress in some areas… But we are not in a position of sufficient progress,” Barnier said, later adding that it could take “weeks or even months” to finish the first stage of talks.
Barnier added that the EU recognises “no possible link” between divorce arrangements and the issue of Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The UK side has repeatedly insisted its belief that the terms of Britain’s departure cannot be finalised without consideration of the future UK-EU relationship, including trade ties.
Davis was in a more optimistic mood compared to previous press conferences, claiming “we’re making decisive steps forward.”
The Brexit secretary accepted that “there are differences in opinion” but said progress had been made in talks, particularly on the issue of the Irish border.
“We made important progress and capitalised on the momentum created by the prime minister’s speech,” Davis said.
Barnier said that both teams of negotiators will “keep working in a constructive spirit until we reach a deal,” and Davis said that “it is in all our interests for these negotiations to succeed.”
Davis claimed the UK has a “real and ongoing commitment to our European allies and friends” and that he would “leave Brussels optimistic about the future.”
Labour MP Heidi Alexander, a leading supporter of Open Britain said: “Not only has there not been sufficient progress in the negotiations with the EU, the Prime Minister seems unable to make sufficient progress in negotiations with her own Cabinet Ministers.
“Since her speech in Florence, Theresa May has been repeatedly contradicted by her closest colleagues.”