The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator has signalled the UK needs to take talks over exiting the bloc more “seriously” in a sign discussions may hit a wall.
Michel Barnier said on Monday he was worried that time was passing without progress on the terms for Britain’s departure, a sign the UK’s recent position papers on its preferred terms of separation have not passed muster in Brussels.
His comments to the media came as Barnier and Brexit Secretary David Davis opened the third round of talks on the UK’s exit.
Barnier’s striking comments suggest they are making slow progress ahead of the UK formally quitting the union at the end of March 2019.
“To be honest I am concerned. Time passes quickly. I welcome the UK government’s papers, and we have read them very carefully, very carefully.
“But we need UK positions on all separation issues. This is necessary to make sufficient progress.
“We must start negotiating seriously. We need UK papers that are clear in order to have constructive negotiations and the sooner we remove the ambiguity, the sooner we will be in a position to discuss on the future relationship and a transitional period.”
Standing beside Barnier, Davis said London wanted the EU to show “imagination and flexibility” in the negotiations.
“Our goal remains the same,” he told reporters.
“We want to agree a deal that works in the best interests of both the European Union and the United Kingdom, and people and businesses right across Europe.
“And we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get down to work again once more.
The bill the UK will be issued for quitting the EU remains the biggest stumbling block to a new pact, with British negotiators yet to admit where it believes it has financial liabilities. Post-Brexit citizens’ rights and the Irish border are also thought to be areas of concern.
In eight weeks’ time, an EU summit will be asked to judge whether the negotiations have made “sufficient progress” to pave the way for trade discussions to start.