Brexit negotiators hail ‘decisive’ progress in Brussels

Britain's Brexit Minister David Davis (L) and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier address media representatives at EU Commission headquarters in Brussels on August 31, 2017

Brussels (AFP) – Britain and the EU have taken “decisive steps forward’ in Brexit talks after Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech last week but more work needs to be done, negotiators said Thursday.

Speaking after the fourth round of talks in Brussels, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis said they had achieved more clarity on the details of May’s speech in Florence.

But Barnier warned that they were “not there yet”, with time running out to achieve sufficient progress to get EU leaders to agree to unlock discussions on a future relationship after Britain leaves in March 2019.

“Thanks to the constructive and determined manner in which both sides have conducted these negotiations I believe we are making decisive steps forward,” Davis told a news conference alongside Barnier at the European Commission’s headquarters.

“After four rounds when I look across the full range of issues to do with our withdrawal from the EU I’m clear we have made considerable progress on the issues that matter,” added Davis.

The EU insists on making sufficient progress on three key divorce issues: Britain’s exit bill, the fate of Northern Ireland, and the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain after its departure from the bloc.

May’s Florence speech offered key concessions as well as proposing a transition period of around two years after Brexit to allow businesses to adjust to the new situation.

“The prime minister’s speech in Florence has created a new dynamic in our negotiations and we have felt this during the negotiations this week,” Barnier said.

“We managed to create clarity on some points, on others however more work remains to be done, and we are not there yet.”

– MEPs urge postponement –

Barnier insisted that the transition should be discussed in the second phase of discussions, however.

Separately, the European Parliament said in a draft resolution to be voted on next week that EU leaders should postpone their decision on progress until after their October summit.

The resolution said the European Parliament “is of the opinion that in the fourth round of negotiations sufficient progress has not yet been made on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the Northern Ireland, and the settlement of the United Kingdom’s financial obligations.”

The parliament “calls on the European Council, unless there is major breakthrough in line with this resolution in all three areas during the fifth negotiation round, to decide at its October meeting to postpone its assessment on whether sufficient progress has been made”.

MEPs will have the final say on any deal for Britain’s departure from the EU in 2019.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who represents the EU member states, said after meeting May in London on Tuesday that there was “no sufficient progress” so far.


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