EU Gives UK Two-Week Deadline on Brexit Divorce Bill
Albanian Daily News
Published November 10, 2017
David Davis and Michel Barnier in Brussels on Friday. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPAThe EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has set the British government a deadline of two weeks to give “vital” clarification on the financial commitments it is willing to honour, at the end of a sixth round of Brexit talks that offered scant evidence of any progress.
Despite claims from both sides last month that the Brexit negotiations were set to accelerate following October’s summit, no significant movement appears to have been made by either side to allow the talks to develop into discussions about a transition period or future trade ties.
At a joint press conference in Brussels on Friday, the UK’s Brexit secretary, David Davis, implored Barnier and the EU27 to be flexible and move on to discussions about a future relationship, adding that there was a need to “build confidence” in the talks on the UK side.
Barnier, however, offered the British government little succour, instead insisting that the decision would be made by the member states at a leaders’ summit in December and that it would be “absolutely vital” to hear from Britain on its intentions with regard to its estimated €60bn (Ł53bn) divorce bill.
Asked if it was necessary, as has been suggested in reports, for the British to provide clarity on their intentions within a fortnight, the EU’s negotiator responded: “My answer is yes.”
Barnier, who noted it had been 500 days since Britain voted to leave, said he needed to establish an “objective interpretation” of Theresa May’s pledge in her Florence speech that no EU member state would lose out as a result of Britain’s withdrawal, and that budget commitments would be honoured.
“This is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December,” he said. Barnier repeatedly demanded “real and sincere progress”. “If that’s not the case, then we will continue and that will pull back the opening of discussions on the future,” he said.
Separately, Konrad Szyma?ski, Poland’s minister for European affairs, urged the UK to make an offer on the financial settlement as soon as possible. “Of course if we can’t make a deal in December we have to find another date, but it could be problematic because of internal procedural aspects both on European side and British side,” he said on a visit to Brussels.
EU leaders need to decide at a summit on 14 and 15 December whether “sufficient” progress has been made on preliminary issues – the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and the Irish border – to allow the talks to move on to future relations, a stage Britain is desperate to reach.
On the issue of the Irish border, an EU paper circulated on Thursday among the 27 member states had suggested that Britain was being pressured to allow northern Ireland to stay within the single market and the customs union to avoid the building of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Davis rejected the suggestion during the press conference, just as the Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, had done earlier in the week.
Davis, who admitted there had been “frank discussions” on the issue, said: “We respect the European Union desire to protect the legal order of the single market and customs union. But that cannot come at cost to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Although there would need to be “specific solutions” for the unique position of Northern Ireland “this cannot amount to creating a new border inside our United Kingdom”, David added.
Barnier refused to be drawn on the impact of the instability of the UK cabinet, from which two ministers have recently been forced to quit.
He said: “I am not going to comment on the internal political situation in the United Kingdom. We are, of course, watching it very closely.”
He said there had been progress in the area of citizens’ rights and welcomed the government’s publication of a streamlined application system for EU nationals living in the UK who want to stay after Brexit.
He added, however, that work remained on the issues of family reunification, the exporting of social security benefits and the role of the European court of justice in ensuring the consistent application of case law in the EU and the UK.