Britain has been warned it could be months until the European Union is prepared to begin talks over the post-Brexit future trading relationship.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said on Thursday it until “real progress” had been made on the exit talks could negotiations turn to a trade deal.
“We are far from being at a stage, it will takes weeks or maybe even months, where we will be able to say there is sufficient progress on the principles of this orderly withdrawal,” he said.
The EU wants to secure the rights of its citizens living in the UK after Brexit and win a commitment from Britain that it will honour its financial commitments before turning to trade.
Barnier was speaking alongside Brexit secretary David Davis during a press conference in Brussels following the latest round of negotiations.
Davis insisted “considerable progress” had been made in the negotiations and had taken “decisive steps forward”.
The talks took place after Theresa May attempted to jump start stalled negotiations with a speech in Florence lat Friday.
Barnier said the prime minister’s intervention had given the talks a “new dynamic” and “made it possible to unblock the situation”.
But he warned: “This takes time.”
Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said: “Any movement towards breaking the deadlock in Brexit negotiations is welcome, but the reality is that this should have happened months ago.
“Instead, the summer has been wasted by Cabinet infighting and the prime minister’s inflexibility on key issues such as the European Court of Justice.”
Tom Brake, the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, said Barnier’s comments showed May’s Florence speech was “a flop” and that David Davis was “dangerously delusional”.
Following the press conference, the TUC and CBI issued a joint statement demanding urgent action be taken guarantee citizens’ rights after March 2019.
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, and Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “After 15 months of human poker, the uncertainty facing 4 million European and UK citizens has become intolerable.
“It is a blight on the values of our nations. Millions of workers and thousands of firms are today united in their call to leaders on both sides to find an urgent solution. A clear guarantee of the right to remain for citizens in both the UK and EU27 is needed within weeks.”
Earlier on Thursday, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warned the final Brexit deal would be crucial for the UK economy.
“Ultimately, the prosperity of the UK will reflect not just the final Brexit arrangements but also the Government’s fiscal and structural policies,” he said.