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David Davis and Michel Barnier clashed bitterly today after Brexit talks went into deadlock on a series of critical issues.
At a press conference in Brussels Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, hit out at Britain’s negotiating tactics and said there had been no “decisive progress” on key issues.
Warning that the UK could be heading for the exit door without any deal at all, Mr Barnier said there had been too little progress on the cash divorce bill for him to recommend starting trade talks.
On the issue of a cash settlement, he implied that Britain was not being honourable. “After this week it’s clear that the UK doesn’t feel legally obliged to honour these obligations after departure,” the French politician said.
He added that there had been “fruitful” talks on the Northern Ireland border, but he repeated the EU’s demand that the rights of EU citizens must be settled by the European Court of Justice, which Theresa May has rejected.
“We did not get any decisive progress on any of the principal subjects,” he added. On Britain’s call for trade talks to be held at the same time as the cash settlement is discussed, he said that “at the current state of progress we are quite far from being able to say that sufficient progress has taken place”.
Brexit Secretary Mr Davis hit back by insisting that future trade relations were “inextricably linked” to the financial settlement. He made clear Britain did not accept a legal obligation to pay tens of billions of pounds demanded by the Commission, implying that any bill must be part of a political deal.
Mr Davis called for “flexibility and imagination” from the EU and said the UK had presented its legal analysis on the financial settlement: “The Commission has set out its position and we have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it rigorously.
“At this round we presented our legal analysis, on on-budget issues, on off-budget issues, and on the EIB — European Investment Bank.
“It’s fair to say across the piece we have a very different legal stance, but as we said in the Article 50 letter the settlement should be in accordance with law and in the spirit of the UK’s continuing partnership with the EU.”
Mr Barnier appeared to warn Theresa May not to try to go over his head to the 27 EU leaders in a bid to soften their line. He said there was not an “iota of difference” among the EU-27 and any attempt to create splits would fail.
On the money issue, he protested: “This week the UK explained its obligations will be limited to their last payment to the EU budget before departure. Yet we have joint obligations to third countries.”
These inc-luded loans to Ukraine and aid to Africa that Britain had agreed to help fund.
He accused Britain of arguing it could leave the single market and keep the benefits: “This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order.”
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