Jean-Claude Juncker: The UK government's Brexit position papers are not 'satisfactory'

Adam Becket
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May welcomes European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Downing Street in London, Britain April 26, 2017.

REUTERS/Hannah McKay


LONDON — The UK government's position papers for Brexit negotiations are not "satisfactory," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said.

Talking at a conference of EU diplomats on Tuesday, Juncker said that there were an "enormous amount of issues" still to be resolved in Brexit negotiations, which restarted this week.

His comments follow the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying on Monday that Britain "must start negotiating seriously."

Theresa May's government has published a number of position papers and "future partnership papers" in the past fortnight, including plans for the Irish border, the UK's future relationship with the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

However, the EU will not allow negotiations to move onto the next stage until "sufficient progress" has been made on three key issues – the Irish border, citizens' rights and Britain's financial obligations, or the "divorce bill" as it's more commonly known. The government has so far refused to tackle the amount it owes to the EU once it leaves.

Juncker said: "I did read, with the requisite attention, all the papers produced by Her Majesty’s government and none of those is actually satisfactory. So there is still an enormous amount of issues which remain to be settled."

"Not just on the border problems regarding Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a very serious problem in respect of which we have had no definitive response, but we also have the status of European citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living on the continent," the president added.

He echoed Barnier's words on Monday, who said: "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 the future relationship and a transitional period."

Brexit secretary David Davis said that he wanted to see "flexibility and imagination on both sides" in negotiations, but the EU will not move onto discussions of the future relationship until the three key issues have been tackled.

Juncker said: "We need to be crystal clear that we will commence no negotiations on the new relationship - particularly a new economic and trade relationship - between the UK and the EU before all these questions are resolved.

"First of all, we settle the past before we look forward to the future."

Davis also defended the position papers on Monday, saying that they were the result of "hard work and detailed thinking that has been going on behind the scenes."

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