Early talks on post-Brexit trade deal ‘increasingly unlikely’

The Brexit negotiations are faltering and the UK government’s hopes of opening talks on a future trade deal with the EU this autumn look increasingly likely to be dashed, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has reported back to the bloc’s member states.

In the starkest sign yet of the parlous state of the negotiations, Barnier told ambassadors to the EU that the British government had so far been unable to provide sufficient clarity on its positions during the last week of talks, leaving him pessimistic about the future.

The European council, whose members comprise the member states, is due to rule at the end of October on whether sufficient progress has been made on the issues of citizens’ rights, the UK’s divorce bill and the border in Ireland, in order for negotiations to be widened to include the future relationship.

Barnier, a former French minister, told the member states representatives at a meeting on Wednesday the UK had not matched the EU in providing clear position papers on the key issues, including the UK’s divorce bill on leaving.

One EU source told the Guardian that Barnier said if the negotiations continued as they had been going sufficient progress would not be made.

The source added: “He didn’t mention any particular area, it was more general, but he said the UK was not providing enough position papers and the chances were not big of sufficient progress being made by October if it continues as it has.”

A second EU official said Brussels feared Britain was intending to talk tough on certain issues around citizens rights, only to offer a compromise at the last minute in return for some leeway on the financial settlement. “That’s why Barnier wants the issues of the citizens rights and the financial settlement done at the same time, not one after the other”, the source said.



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