Barnier warns UK to start negotiating Brexit ‘seriously’

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned the UK to start negotiating “seriously”, calling on the British government to set out its position on paying an exit bill before discussing any future post-Brexit relationship.

At the start of the third round of formal Brexit talks in Brussels today, Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, said he was “concerned” over the lack progress between the two sides and called for an end to any “ambiguity” over the UK’s financial obligations to the bloc.

Mr Barnier’s words – some of the harshest to have been publicly voiced by the EU – come after the British government set out seven position papers this month on a series of issues related to its divorce and future relationship. This did not include a position on paying a Brexit bill, however, something the EU has said it vital to agree before moving on to a second phase of talks over future trade after Brexit and the status of Northern Ireland.

“We need UK positions on all separation issues” said Mr Barnier, standing next to his UK counterpart David Davis on Monday afternoon.

Mr Barnier added:

This is necessary to make sufficient progress. We must start negotiating seriously. We need UK papers that are clear in order to have constructive negotiations. The sooner we remove the ambiguity the sooner we will be in a position to discuss the future relationship.

Mr Davis rejected the criticism the UK was ambiguous, calling the UK’s papers the products of “hard worked and detailed thinking”.

Instead he called for “flexibility” from the EU side in the talks.

Negotiations will continue until Thursday.

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