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Brexit Talks At ‘Disturbing Deadlock’ Over Divorce Bill, Says EU Negotiator

The Guardian, UK: The Brexit negotiations are in a “very disturbing state of deadlock” over Britain’s divorce bill but decisive progress before Christmas is still within reach, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier told reporters during a joint press conference with the Brexit secretary, David Davis, that he would would not be able to recommend to EU27 leaders at a summit in Brussels next week that “sufficient progress” had been made to allow talks over future trade relations to begin.

While acknowledging the momentum given to the talks by Theresa May’s promise that the UK would honour its existing financial commitments, Barnier said: “This week, however, the UK repeated that it was still not ready to spell out these commitments.

“On this question we have received a state of deadlock which is very disturbing for thousands of project promoters and very disturbing also for taxpayers … I’m not able to propose to next week’s European council that we start discussions on the future relationship.”

In a sign that the talks are on a knife edge seven months in, Barnier added: “A no deal will be a very bad deal and, to be clear, on our side we will be ready to face any eventualities and all the eventualities.”

Earlier this week, the prime minister told MPs in the House of Commons that the UK was preparing for a no-deal scenario.

Davis responded to Barnier’s comments by calling on the European council to seize the moment when it meets next week, in order to allow Barnier to talk about the future. “I hope they give Michel the means to progress what we are doing”, he said.

Barnier did offer some hope that a way to break the stalemate could be found in the coming weeks.

He said he remained “convinced today that with political will, decisive progress is within our grasp in the next two months”.

“Slowly but surely over the next few weeks I will explore the way forward, if there is the necessary will, I will explore ways to get out of this deadlock we find ourselves in.”

EU sources said there remained potential for the council to allow Barnier to scope out some of the details of a transition period, although a decision has yet to be made. Barnier dismissed talk that the EU needed to make more concessions, telling reporters that he didn’t like the term.

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