UK’s divorce bill has hit a ‘disturbing state of deadlock’: EU negotiator

Speaking after the fifth round of Brexit talks in Brussels

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told reporters today that talks over Britain’s divorce bill have hit a ‘very disturbing state of deadlock’ and that he would not be able to tell EU27 leaders that “sufficient progress” has been made. However, he did add that decisive progress before Christmas is still within reach.

During a joint press conference with UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis, Barnier told media today: “We’ve reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing. We are not asking the UK to make concessions. With political will, decisive progress is within our grasp within the next two months”.

“With the necessary will and on the basis of the commitments entered into by Theresa May, we can get out of this deadlock,” Barnier added.

The pair was speaking after the fifth round of Brexit talks in Brussels.

The main issue, according to Barnier, is the UK’s refusal to accept the EU’s analysis of what it will owe on leaving the bloc in March 2019.

While the chief negotiator did acknowledge Prime Minister Theresa May’s Florence speech where she had announced that Britain would both pay £17bn after Brexit and honour its existing financial commitments, he, however, highlighted how the UK repeated this week “that it was still not ready to spell out these commitments”.

Asked if Britain could exit the EU in March 2019 without a trade deal, Barnier said that “no-deal will be a very bad deal and, to be clear, on our side we will be ready to face any eventualities and all the eventualities.”

Davis has urged EU leaders to give Barnier a mandate to start trade talks at the summit on 19 and 20 October: “I hope the leaders of the 27 will provide Michel with the means to explore ways forward with us on that.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to the development saying: “I think it’s quite shocking. We’re now 15 months on since the referendum and the government seems to have reached deadlock at every stage.”

He also said that “falling out” of the EU without a trade deal would threaten “a lot of jobs all across Britain”. Labour is reportedly calling for “emergency” talks between Davis and the EU early next week in a bid to break the deadlock.

 

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