Brexit bill: Barnier gives UK two weeks to clarify amount

David Davis (l) and Michel BarnierImage copyright

The UK has two weeks to clarify what it will pay the EU if progress is to be made in Brexit talks, the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said.

He was speaking after meeting the Brexit secretary for the sixth round of talks on citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the UK’s “divorce bill”.

David Davis said it was time for both sides “to work to find solutions”.

Before the talks, Theresa May said she wanted the UK’s exit date set in law, and warned MPs not to block Brexit.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier suggested Britain would have to clarify its position in the next fortnight on what it would pay to settle its obligations to the EU.

“This is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December,” he said. “It is just a matter of settling accounts as in any separation.”

‘Useful clarifications’

Mr Barnier also said both sides had to work towards an “objective interpretation” of Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge that no member of the EU would lose out financially as a result of the Brexit vote.

The Brexit secretary insisted good progress was being made across the board, and that the negotiations had narrowed to a “few outstanding, albeit important, issues”.

Mr Davis and Mr Barnier agreed there had been progress on the issue of settled status for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

Mr Barnier said the UK had provided “useful clarifications” on guaranteeing rights, although more work needed to be done on some points including rights of families and exporting welfare payments.

For the UK’s part, Mr Davis said, the government had “listened carefully” to concerns and that there would be a “streamlined and straightforward” process for EU nationals to obtain settled status.

‘Frank discussions’

But Mr Davis rejected a suggestion that Northern Ireland could remain within the European customs union.

He was responding to a European Commission paper, which proposed that Northern Ireland may have to remain a member of the EU’s single market or customs union, if a so-called “hard border” with the Irish Republic is to be avoided.

Saying there had been “frank discussions” with Mr Barnier and his negotiators on the issue of the Irish border, Mr Davis insisted there could be “no new border” inside the UK.

“We respect the European Union desire to protect the legal order of the single market and the customs union, but that cannot come at cost to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom,” Mr Davis told reporters in Brussels.

“We recognise the need for specific solutions for the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. But let me be clear – this cannot amount to creating a new border inside our United Kingdom,” he added.

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