Brexit negotiations have not started "promisingly", says former top civil servant

Helen Cahill
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Barnier has criticised the UK for not coming to talks with a clear position on key issues (Source: Getty)

Brexit negotiations have not started "promisingly", a former top civil servant has said.

Sir Simon Fraser, former chief mandarin at the Foreign Office and a Remain supporter, has said civil servants did not have a clear position ahead of talks in Brussels because of differences in the cabinet.

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His comments echo those made by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator after the most recent round of talks.

Michel Barnier implied the UK had turned up unprepared, saying the two sides had outlined areas of agreement and conflict, but only "for the issues on which there was a clear British position".

Fraser, who now advises businesses on Brexit, told the BBC's Westminster Hour: "The negotiations have only just begun, I don't think they have begun particularly promisingly, frankly, on the British side.

"We haven't put forward a lot because, as we know, there are differences within the cabinet about the sort of Brexit that we are heading for and until those differences are further resolved I think it's very difficult for us to have a clear position."

He said that aside from putting forward a position on the status of EU citizens living in the UK, British civil servants had been somewhat "absent" from the negotiations.

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