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Brexit talks at an impasse, says EU's Barnier

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Brexit talks at an impasse, says EU's Barnier

Davis - Barnier - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The EU's chief Brexit negotiator called for trust and respect from the United Kingdom Thursday, as he confirmed he could not recommend a start on discussions on future relations to next week's EU summit.

Speaking at the press conference following the end of the fifth round of Article 50 negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, Michel Barnier said that, while the talks had been constructive, they had focused on the technical rather than the substantial.

The EU's main grievance, he said, was that the British government had been unwilling to follow up with specifics following prime minister Theresa May's speech in Florence, where she had affirmed that the UK would honour the financial commitments undertaken by the UK as part of the 28-member Union.

The talks had clarified certain points, he said. The two sides had a "common horizon", a wish to arrive at an accord for the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU - and, eventually, to produce a blueprint for future relations between the EU and the UK.

The key issues for the talks were:

  • to protect the rights of all citizens impacted by Brexit
  • to preserve the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland and maintain cooperation on the island of Ireland;
  • and to honour the commitments entered into by the 28 EU Member States including the UK.

These were the conditions the EU had set if the two parties are to enter as soon as possible into discussions over a new "ambitious and durable partnership between the UK and the European Union".

M Barnier confirmed once again the importance the EU gave to the rights of citizens as a key priority. The EU was looking for clear commitments on the portability of social rights after Brexit.

For instance, he said that all European citizens living in the UK should, after 10 or 15 years' time, "be able to bring their parents to where they are living, with the same applying to British citizens living abroad."

In the same spirit, he said a European citizen who has lived and worked in the UK for 20 years should be able to return to one of the EU countries with his disability pension "under the same conditions that would apply to British citizens living in the Union."

The UK's Brexit negotiator David Davis, for his part, acknowledged the anxieties of the EU over EU citizens' rights to settle status in the United Kingdom.

He said he could reassure those European citizens living in the UK that their rights and status would be "enshrined in UK law by the withdrawal process agreement".

He admitted however that there would be a registration process, but the administration process would be "completely new", streamlined and low cost. In addition, he said, any EU citizen already in possession of a permanent residence card would be able to exchange it simply for settled status in a simple way. He said they would not have to go through the whole application process again.

M Barnier confirmed that the UK had informed the EU of its intention to put in place this 'simplified procedure' and the EU would study the practical aspects of this procedure.

The major stumbling block to starting talks on the UK's future relationship with the EU remained the financial aspect, however.

M Barnier said the lack of clarity by the UK on keeping to commitments it had made as a member of the 28-state Union had created an impasse. He said this was an important point for all the people involved in EU projects throughout Europe, and also for those making the financial contributions.

"We will only succeed through shared solutions." he said.

Article 50 talks with the United Kingdom - documents

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