Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

Brexit talks in "disturbing deadlock,": Barnier

12 Oct 2017, 20:11 ( 4 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier . File Photo Xinhua.

The Brexit talks are currently in a "disturbing deadlock," but no deal between the European Union (EU) and Britain would be a bad deal, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters Thursday.

"No major step forward in this week's Brexit talks yet we still have the common goal," said Barnier in his joint press conference with British counterpart David Davis, asserting that doing things in right order is the key to Brexit talks' success and EU-UK future relationship is definitely not the subject of the first negotiation session.

"We worked constructively this week. We clarified certain points. But without making any great steps forward. We still have a common goal: the desire to reach an agreement on the UK's withdrawal and to outline our future relationship, when the time comes," he told reporters.

For his part, Davis urged the other 27 EU members to recognize the progress and achievements made in the past five rounds of talks in the EU leaders' summit slated for Oct. 19 in Brussels, which is a precondition for the start of the second negotiation session.

NO BIG STEP FORWARD

At the beginning of his speech, Barnier made crystal clear that no sufficient progress in three key fields -- namely citizens' rights, Northern Ireland border and financial settlement -- no talks on the future relationship between EU and Britain.

"For us, from the EU side, achieving and realizing these three big objectives is the condition for engaging in a discussion, as soon as possible, on a new ambitious, long-lasting partnership," he said.

Concerning the issue of citizens' rights, the two sides were still at loggerheads with each other. The only silver-line of the sitzkrieg was that Britain had informed EU of its intention to put in place a simplified procedure which allows EU citizens to assert their rights.

"Today I can confirm that we want to reassure those European citizens living in the UK that their rights and status will be enshrined in UK law by the Withdrawal Agreement. And yes, there will be a registration process but the administration process will be completely new. It will be streamlined, and it will be low cost," said Davis.

"We will study attentively the practical details of this procedure, which should really be simple for citizens," Barnier responded.

As for the Northern Ireland border issue, the talks were currently on a right path but more work needs to be done.

"This week we advanced on the joint principles on the continuation of the Common Travel Area, and we continued our intensive work on mapping out areas of cooperation that operate on a North South basis on the island of Ireland ... but more work to do in order to build a full picture of the challenges to North-South cooperation resulting from the Brexit," said Barnier.

Despite some agreements in principle, the talks still failed to achieve any breakthrough.

As to the financial settlement, ie, divorce fee, the two sides still stuck in a deadlock.

"The UK told us again this week that it still could not clarify these commitments. Therefore, there was no negotiation on this, but we did have technical discussions which were useful, albeit technical. We are, therefore, at a deadlock on this question," said Barnier, adding that "this is extremely worrying for European taxpayers and those who benefit from EU policies."

For EU, divorce fee is the precondition for talks on EU-UK future relationship, but for Britain, divorce fee is the bonus of the early starting of the talks on future relationship.

NO DEAL IS BAD DEAL

In the middle of the fifth round talks, President of the European Council Donald Tusk said on his twitter account Tuesday that EU27 are not working on a "no deal" scenario in their Brexit talks with Britain.

"We negotiate in good faith and hope for 'sufficient progress' by December," he said.

Tusk's remarks came a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May told Britain to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on the first day back after the conference season, May said achieving a special partnership after Brexit will require leadership and flexibility, not just from Britain, but from the 27 nations of the EU.

"As we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic it will receive a positive response," May told MPs in her first parliamentary statement since her big speech last month in Florence.

"What we are seeking is not just the best possible deal for us, but I believe that will also be the best possible deal for our European friends too. Progress will not always be smooth but by approaching these negotiations in a constructive way in a spirit of friendship and cooperation and with our sights firmly set on the future, I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong," May added.

In her statement, May said the British government published on Monday two new policy consultation statements on trade and customs.

"These pave the way for legislation to allow the UK to operate as an independent trading nation and to create an innovative customs system that will help us achieve the greatest possible tariff and barrier-free trade as we leave the EU," said May.

A BALL GAME?

Also on Monday, Brexit negotiation entered its fifth round in Brussels. With the absence of Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis, the two sides kicked off their talks in a low profile -- no joint press conference as usual.

Prior to her speech in the House of Commons, May told the other 27 members of the Union that "the ball is in the EU's court," calling on EU to take actions and exert more flexibility and imagination in the negotiations.

Answering the question of a British reporter about "the ball is in whose court," Margaritis Schinas, European Commission (EC) chief spokesperson, told reporters during Monday's daily briefing in the headquarters of the EC that "This is not exactly a ball game."

"You know we don't provide comments on comment, but what I can remind you is that there is sequencing of these talks," he said.

"There is no solution found so far to the step one, that is the divorce proceedings, so the ball is entirely in the UK's court for the rest to happen," said Schinas.

The long-awaited Brexit talks was launched on June 19, nearly one year after Britain voted to leave the bloc by a narrow margin on June 23, 2016.

May sent a notification letter to the EU in late March, triggering a two-year countdown to Britain's withdrawal of the bloc after more than 44 years of membership. 

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