Official Brexit talks make little progress
Big gap remains over citizens' rights and financial settlement
22 July, 2017
Brexit teams at the start of the talks.
Brexit negotiators found little common ground at the end of a first full round of Brexit talks, while both Michel Barnier and David Davis acknowledged that big differences remain over citizens' rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border, news wires reported. At the end of four days of talks in Brussels, which focused on setting out positions on key issues, the EU chief negotiator said there was “a fundamental divergence” on how to protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and of Britons in the EU. He also insisted that the European Court of Justice should guarantee citizens' rights after Brexit, something British PM Theresa May has ruled out.
“Any reference to European rights implies their oversight by the Court of Justice of the European Union,” Barnier told a joint news conference held together with British Brexit Secretary David Davis. He also called for more clarity on the British position on the financial settlement and on the Irish border. “Clarification of the United Kingdom's position is essential. We want an orderly exit, and an orderly exit requires Britain to settle its accounts,” Barnier said. In his words the UK had not been clear enough about where it stands on these issues and that was hampering progress.
“I know one has to compromise in negotiations but we are not there yet. When I say, and I think I was very clear and transparent about that, that there are things that are inseparable from others. That's the financial settlement, let's be very clear. We want clarity on that because we need to be able to work more until we come to areas of compromise,” Barnier pointed out. “We require this clarification on the financial settlement, on citizens' rights, on Ireland and the other separation issues where this week's experience has quite simply shown we make better progress where our respective positions are clear,” he added.
On his side Davis saw “some progress” as the talks had been “robust but constructive”, and said the meetings in Brussels provided “a lot to be positive about.” But he refused to confirm that Britain now accepts that it will end up making some kind of net payment to the EU on leaving. “We're a country that recognises its international responsibilities and rights and that we will seek to exercise both in the future,” he pointed out. “We both recognise the importance of sorting out the obligations we have to one another, both legally and in a spirit of mutual cooperation. A solution will require flexibility from both sides,” he pointed out.
Davis also told the news conference that Britain could “make it work” if it had to walk away from a “punishment” trade deal with the EU, but added: “Nobody expects a punishment deal. Michel and I are going for a good deal.” Recently, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said the EU can “go whistle” if it demands an “extortionate” payment but other ministers have struck a more conciliatory tone. Sources have suggested to the BBC the bill could be between €30m and €50m.
The next round of talks is set to start on 28 August. The EU has said talks won't move on to the subject of future trading arrangements until it judges there's been adequate progress on the separation issues. Last Wednesday, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the UK must pay what it owes to the EU before it can start thinking about trade deals. Meanwhile, the UK government has announced that MPs are set to debate the repeal bill, a key piece of Brexit legislation that will transform EU laws into British laws, for two days from 7 September.