European Union warns over UK Brexit talks progress

Flags are seen at the EU Commission headquarters ahead of a first full round of talks on Brexit Britain's divorce terms from the European Union in Brussels

European Union warns over UK Brexit talks progress

The EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said the trade talks can only begin when "sufficient progress" has been reached on basic issues like the Brexit bill, the rights of EU and British citizens, and Northern Ireland, but there has been no headway on any of them.

Tories accused Labour of "a weak attempt to kick the can down the road", but Jeremy Corbyn said Govern****ment "confusion" had left Mr Davis "in danger of wandering into a cliff-edge Brexit " in the Brussels talks. Among the items on the agenda are citizens' rights, the financial settlement, other separation issues, Northern Ireland and the governance of the withdrawal agreement.

In an open statement to reporters, Barnier said, "To be honest, I'm concerned".

It is sticking to a strategy of what officials have called "constructive ambiguity" in the hope that it will be able to gain some bargaining power in future trade talks and over a transition deal. He said: "We need you to take positions on all separation issues".

On Monday, the UK's Daily Telegraph reported that the European Union "could be open to a Brexit climbdown over trade talks amid revolt led by France", prompting the French governmen to issue a denial.

In a tetchy news conference last night, the UK Brexit secretary David Davis looked visibly irritated as his European Union counterpart said the UK needed to clarify its positions and end "ambiguity" if it wanted "serious" withdrawal talks.

"The UK government has published a large number of papers covering important issues related to our withdrawal and our vision for a deep and special partnership", Davis said.

Ahead of the talks, Mr Davis was believed to be frustrated at Mr Barnier's insistence that progress must be made on fixing the UK's "divorce" bill before moving on to talks on future trade.

The move comes as Britain and the European bloc begin the second of four days of talks in Brussels, which form the latest round of discussions about how the pair should unpick their relationship after the UK's vote to leave the EU last July.

To do that would require "flexibility and imagination from both sides", he said.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said he wanted Britain to stay in the EU's single market for an extended period.

The EU wants to make progress on issues such as social security coordination, the status of frontier workers and on professional qualifications.

Last month, the Taoiseach also said that Ireland will not participate in any British plans to solve the post-Brexit border issue.

The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, would also "leave open the option of the United Kingdom remaining a member of the customs union and single market for good, beyond the end of the transitional period", but only if Labour could by then have persuaded the rest of the EU to agree to a special deal on immigration and changes to freedom of movement rules.

'We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get down to work, ' says UK's Brexit secretary.

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