Britain and EU in rare Brexit agreement

David Davis and Michel Barnier

David Davis and Michel Barnier have announced ‘significant progress’ in their latest round of Brexit talks.

Britain’s Brexit Secretary and the EU Chief Negotiator said that ‘decisive steps’ had been made, presenting a significantly more united front than at previous points in the negotiations.

However both acknowledged that significant differences remain. Sticking points include future citizens’ rights, which the EU is insisting must be enforced through the European Court of Justice, and the level of Britain’s divorce bill.

Mr Barnier said that Theresa May’s Florence speech, proposing a two-year transition in which Britain will continue to pay into EU coffers, had created a ‘good dynamic’ for the talks.

He said: ‘We managed to create clarity on some points. On others, however, more work remains to be done and we are not there yet.’

Mr Davis said: ‘We have made important progress and capitalised on the momentum created by the Prime Minister’s speech.

‘We are working quickly through a number of complex issues but there remain some points where further discussion and pragmatism will be required to reach an agreement.’

Theresa May tried to break the Brexit deadlock last week (Reuters)

Theresa May’s speech in Florence last week attempted to break the Brexit deadlock, and included an assurance that Britain would honour its financial commitments to the EU budget for two years after Brexit.

The Prime Minister said neither the Government nor the EU would be ready to fully implement new arrangements for Brexit on March 29 2019 when the UK formally leaves.

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She proposed an implementation period during which “the existing structure of EU rules and regulations” would apply.

That means Britain would remain a  member of the single market – and the UK would continue to abide by existing immigration rules.

However, Mr Barnier said more work was needed on settling what the EU calls Britain’s ‘orderly withdrawal’ from the EU first.

On the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, he welcomed Britain’s assurance that it would adopt ‘EU law concepts’ but said assurances did not go far enough.

‘We failed to agree the European Court of Justice must play an indispensable role in ensuring this consistency. This is a stumbling block for the EU,’ he said.

On the contentious issue of the so-called ‘divorce bill’, he said the commitment made by the UK as a member state must be honoured in full.

He said a solution was also needed on the border with Ireland which fully respected both requirements of the EU single market and the Good Friday Agreement.

‘We have had a constructive week but we are not there yet in terms of achieving sufficient progress. Further work is needed in the coming weeks and coming months,’ he said.

 

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