European Union sources: United Kingdom to agree Brexit divorce bill before trade talks

Paterniano Del Favero
Giugno 19, 2017

Foster said talks with May would continue into next week.

The aim is to get European Union leaders to agree at a summit in October that there is "sufficient progress" on the divorce to move on to future ties.

It's the first time a country has left the European Union so the negotiators — led by former French government minister and European Union commissioner Michel Barnier and Britain's David Davis — will also be navigating uncharted waters.

That the British were ready to break negotiations down on the lines of priorities identified by Brussels implied, he said, a willingness to start a first phase of divorce talks before moving on next year to a second phase on the new free trade relationship May wants - a "sequencing" London has disputed.

"Following discussions in Brussels today, both sides agreed that the formal negotiations under the Article 50 process can now start". A former principal private secretary to Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the career civil servant was later deputy national security adviser before being appointed permanent secretary of Mr Davis's Department for Exiting the European Union in July 2016.

"We have been crystal clear about our approach to these negotiations", said the spokesman.

"Our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other". Although there has been no official figure from Brussels, reports suggest that it will be looking for a "divorce bill" of £50 billion - or higher - in settlement of the UK's outstanding liabilities.

"We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

British media reported a willingness by the United Kingdom to make what the "Sunday Times" called a "bold offer" on citizens rights - in effect to reciprocate the EU's suggestion of a like-for-like deal preserving current rights to travel and reside for both sets of citizens.

More pressing is the issues of providing effective guarantees to some 5 million people — around 3 million European Union citizens living in Britain plus nearly 2 million Britons in Europe — who want to know what the future holds after Brexit.

"We are starting", Barnier said on Twitter.

The Liberal Democrats, the fourth-biggest group in the British parliament, urged May to form a cross-party committee to negotiate Brexit.

Britain is likely to go into arduous talks on its exit from the European Union without a deal to keep Prime Minister Theresa May in power as negotiations with a Northern Irish "kingmaker" party grind into a second week.

And he said they should now drop their claim that "no deal is better than a bad deal" on Brexit, warning: "No deal has never been a viable option".

"To threaten to jump off a cliff rather than to be pushed is not a viable negotiating strategy", he said.

Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis described the talks as a mission to deliver on the will of the British people following the referendum of a year ago.

The unprecedented negotiations come nearly exactly a year after Britons voted last June 23 to leave the EU.

On the upside, Britain could do trade deals with other countries and would no longer be bound to the EU's agriculture and fishery policy, an important point for the Scots, who have a large fishing industry.

Britain seems to have tacitly accepted the EU's plan for sequenced talks, which will focus first on the terms of Britain's withdrawal, with negotiations on a future relationship and trade deal coming later.

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