Barnier asks UK to clarify concessions, as Brexit talks resume
(Bloomberg) The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier signalled the bloc won't agree to start discussing a trade deal with the UK until the British government offers additional clarifications about the concessions that Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to offer last week.
"We need clarity," Barnier told reporters in Brussels on Monday, before a meeting with his UK counterpart David Davis. "What's important now is for the government of the UK to translate the speech into a clear negotiating position" the French official said, referring to May's speech in Florence on Friday.
Barnier and Davis were due to kick off the fourth round of negotiations between the EU and the British government, with hope on both sides that May's speech will at least give some impetus to break the deadlock over the financial settlement, the rights of EU nationals and the Irish border. The EU has said that "sufficient progress" on these three separation issues is necessary before negotiations can begin on a future relationship after the UK leaves the Union in 2019.
May's speech "was a small step in the right direction" while it will depend on talks between Davis and Barnier if they can get closer to getting trade talks off the ground come October, Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in an interview after the Brexit negotiator briefed the bloc's European affairs ministers on the state of play in negotiations.
Both the EU and Britain had pencilled in a summit in October for the moment when EU leaders would give the green light for talks to move onto a future relationship. Meeting this deadline remains uncertain, even after May offered to honour the financial commitments it has made during its membership in the bloc and abide by EU rules and regulations during a transitional period of up to two years.
"My current mandate doesn't cover a transition period" Barnier said at a press conference following the meeting of the EU's General Affairs Council. "Discussion on a transition period can only begin once we reach an agreement on an orderly withdrawal."
Another weekly round of negotiations is scheduled next month, before EU leaders meet on October 19 to decide whether sufficient progress was made on separation talks for trade discussions to begin.