Barnier signals Brexit trade talks will not start

Brexit negotiations on Britain’s divorce bill are ‘deadlocked’ and trade talks will not be started next week, Michel Barnier said today.

The EU’s negotiator said ‘no massive steps forward’ were taken at this week’s fifth round of negotiations and branded the failure to agree a Brexit bill ‘very disturbing’.

In response, Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted the UK would only discuss the bill further once talks about the future relationship between the EU and UK had begun.

Mr Davis demanded EU leaders loosen Mr Barnier’s negotiating rules when they meet next week to give the talks a chance of progress by Christmas.

He admitted there were ‘points of tension in any negotiation’ but the important thing was where the talks, which have been in a stalemate for months, concluded.

Mr Barnier’s use of the word ‘deadlocked’ prompted a plunge in the value of the pound.

The EU is demanding Britain honours all of its financial obligations agreed as a full member – some of which will last for decades. Britain wants to pay only up to the end of the current budget in 2020.

Michel Barnier (pictured in Brussels today) said there was still a ‘common goal’ to reach an orderly withdrawal that included a framework for the future relationship ‘when the time comes’

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Government wanted a deal but was planning for the contingency of failure

Opening the regular joint press conference, Mr Barnier said the EU and UK ‘share the same objectives’ to protect the rights of citizens, preserve the Irish peace process and resolving budget issues.

The chief negotiator said these remained the EU’s conditions for trade talks.

But he blasted: ‘Let me be absolutely frank, we need to settle the accounts and we are in a position of deadlock at the moment.

‘But I am sure with the political will on the basis of the commitments entered into by Theresa May in her Florence speech, we can find a way forward.’

He added: ‘This week, however, the UK repeated that it was still not ready to spell out these commitments.

‘There have therefore been no negotiations on this subject. We confined ourselves to technical discussions – useful discussions, but technical discussions.

‘On this question we have reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing for thousands of project promoters in Europe and it’s disturbing also for taxpayers.’

Mr Davis hit back to insist Britain had studied the EU demands for cash line by line and would only consider them further once trade talks were underway.

He said: ‘We have undertaken a rigorous examination of the technical details. This is not a process for agreement on specific commitments – this can only come later.

‘But it is also important when the time comes we can reach an agreement quickly.’

He said ‘progress;’ has been made on the financial issues relating to Britain’s withdrawal but that ‘these issues are related to discussions on our future relationship.’

He added: ‘We are ready and well prepared for those future negotiations.’

The press conference with David Davis (pictured) came at the conclusion of the fifth round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels

Mr Barnier's use of the word 'deadlocked' shortly before noon today prompted a sharp plunge in the value of the pound

Mr Barnier’s use of the word ‘deadlocked’ shortly before noon today prompted a sharp plunge in the value of the pound

Mr Barnier warned ‘no deal will be a very bad deal, we will be ready to face any and all eventualities’.

He said there was still a ‘common goal’ to reach an orderly withdrawal that included a framework for the future relationship but insisted talks would only begin ‘when the time comes’.

On citizens’ rights, he said there remained outstanding questions over rights of family reunion and the use of the European Court for EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit.

Mr Barnier continued: ‘There is no question of making concessions on the thousands of European investment projects around Europe.

‘These are complex and difficult negotiations. We have shared obligations, we also have shared duties.’

He added: ‘There is a new momentum and I remain convinced today that with the political will decisive progress is within our grasp within the next two months.’

Amid a furious debate in London about Britain’s preparations for a no deal Brexit, Mr Davis said the Government still wanted a broad deal.

But he urged EU leaders to help deliver it.

He said: ‘The Prime Minister’s speech set out the scale of our ambition for our deep and special partnership with the European Union.

‘And also laid out the case for a simple, clear and time-limited period of implementation on current terms.

‘As I said when I stood here last time, I hope the leaders of the 27 will provide Michel with the means to explore ways forward with us on that.’

 The Prime Minister told Brussels the 'ball is in your court' and urged the EU to help forge a 'dynamic, creative and unique' relationship as she dismissed the prospect of further concessions before trade talks begin as she updated Parliament about Brexit on Monday

The Prime Minister told Brussels the ‘ball is in your court’ and urged the EU to help forge a ‘dynamic, creative and unique’ relationship as she dismissed the prospect of further concessions before trade talks begin as she updated Parliament about Brexit on Monday

Ahead of today’s press conference, Theresa May had urged Brussels to move on to trade talks in the Brexit negotiations – telling EU leaders earlier this week that the ‘ball is in your court’.

The PM has tried to unblock to talks by setting out her Brexit offer in her landmark address in Florence last month.

She has said the UK wants a two year transition in which we would stay in the single market, customs and union and still be subject to rulings from EU judges.

Earlier this week she told Brussels ‘ball is in your court’ and dismissed the prospect of further concessions before trade talks begin.

But Eurocrats have been refusing to move on to trade talks in a row over the Brexit divorce bill.

They also insist that ‘sufficient progress’ must be made on EU citizens rights and the Irish border question before the next phase of talks can kick off.

It comes as fresh Cabinet splits emerged over the preparations for Brexit, with relations between the PM and her Chancellor plunged into a deep freeze.

Philip Hammond infuriated many of his colleagues yesterday by saying he would only release the billions of pounds needed to prepare for no deal at the last possible moment.

His stance contradicts Mrs May who has repeatedly insisted Britain is prepared to walk away if Brussels cannot agree a good deal.

Mrs May slapped down her chancellor yesterday by telling the Commons that money has been pumped into preparing country for a possible ‘no deal’ option.

Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, pictured together in Brussels last month. The pair have now held five rounds of negotiations

Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, pictured together in Brussels last month. The pair have now held five rounds of negotiations

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