EU warns Britain to speed up Brexit talks
Brussels: The European Union on Thursday warned Britain to reach a divorce deal by the end of the month to guarantee moving to trade negotiations, as Brexit talks resumed in Brussels.
Fears are growing in Brussels that the chaotic political situation in London after Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a string of ministerial resignations will hamper the chances of reaching a deal on key issues, especially Britain's contentious exit bill.
EU leaders had hoped to officially approve the next phase on future relations and a transition period at a summit in December, but officials are increasingly concerned that deadline could slip to February or March.
"Time is pressing," chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said in a speech in Rome on Thursday before flying back to Brussels to start the sixth round of the slow-moving talks.
"The European Council summit in October wanted to keep up the dynamic of the negotiations and I am of the same state of mind," Barnier said. "But the real moment of clarification is coming."
This week's talks feature a stripped-down two-day schedule instead of the normal four days, with Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis set to meet only tomorrow morning before
holding a press conference, sources said.
To move on to trade talks, the EU is demanding sufficient progress on three key divorce issues, above all the bill Britain must pay to cover its budgetary commitments, a figure which senior European officials put at 60 billion euros (USD 70 billion).
They also want commitments on keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and on guaranteeing the rights of three million European citizens living in Britain.
But the British government looks increasingly distracted, with the resignation of its aid minister over meetings in Israel yesterday adding to the sense of chaos since May's disastrous showing in elections earlier this year.