Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has reiterated that trade negotiations between the UK and the EU will not begin until the so-called “divorce bill” has been settled.
Juncker said that none of the papers produced by the UK government are “actually satisfactory”, adding that there is still “an enormous amount of issues which remain to be settled”.
On Tuesday morning, Mr Juncker told the ambassador’s conference: “I would like to be clear that 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’s 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’ve 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 EU has made it clear it does not want to begin trade talks until Britain has resolved: the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK after Brexit, a decision on Northern Ireland’s border, and the size of a financial settlement for leaving the bloc.
However, the cost of leaving the UK could be as much as £55bn, a figure deemed “unacceptable” by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government ministers.
According to the BBC, a government spokesperson recently said:
“The PM has made clear that we will be seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU, that works in the interests of businesses and consumers in both the UK and the EU.
“We have published a paper that lays out the government’s aspirations for the UK’s future customs arrangements, and also makes clear that we want an implementation period that avoids a cliff-edge for business and allows a smooth and orderly exit from the EU.”
However, the European Commission has criticised the lack of progress so far.
Chief negotiator Mr Barnier said on Monday in a joint press conference with UK Brexit Secretary David Davis that the UK needed to begin “negotiating seriously”.
“We need UK positions on all separation issues. This is necessary to make sufficient progress. We must start negotiating seriously,” he 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 the transitional period.”