POLITICS

Cabinet Splits Damaging Brexit Negotiations, Warns UK's Former Chief Diplomat

Sir Simon Fraser warns UK 'absent' from talks.

07/08/2017 10:31 | Updated 07 August 2017
PA Wire/PA Images

Cabinet divisions have meant Brexit negotiations have not begun well for the United Kingdom, the former head of the diplomatic service has warned.

Sir Simon Fraser, who was the top civil servant at the Foreign Office until 2015, said the government did not appear to have a “clear position”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Westminster Hour, he said: “The negotiations have only just begun, I don’t think they have begun particularly promisingly, frankly, on the British side.

“We haven’t put forward a lot because, as we know, there are differences within the cabinet about the sort of Brexit that we are heading for and until those differences are further resolved I think it’s very difficult for us to have a clear position.”

“I think so far we haven’t put much on the table apart from something on the status of nationals, so we are a bit absent from the formal negotiation.”

Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said Sir Simon’s comments showed the “shambolic approach” the government was taking.

“This government is in the middle of the single biggest economic and diplomatic negotiation in our history. Yet while the clock is running down, key cabinet members are still squabbling over what type of Brexit to pursue,” he said.

One of the key issues that needs to be resolved in the talks with European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s team is the amount the UK will be asked to pay in a financial settlement.

Some Tory Eurosceptics have insisted the UK should not pay a so-called divorce bill following suggestions the government could be prepared to offer Brussels £36 billion as part of a Brexit deal.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the Government will only agree to pay the sum if the EU treats it as part of a deal on future relations.

Any settlement would take account of financial commitments and ongoing liabilities such as EU pensions.

The EU’s stance is that trade talks cannot begin until significant progress has been made on the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland.

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