Barnier dismisses UK calls to be "flexible" on Brexit

Catherine Neilan
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"We need to know their position and then I can be flexible.” (Source: Getty)

The EU's chief negotiator has indicated that the UK cannot expect Brussels to be "flexible" until it puts its money where its mouth is.

Michel Barnier, who is currently taking part in the third set of Brexit talks with David Davis' team, today told reporters: “To be flexible you need two points, our point and their point. We need to know their position and then I can be flexible.”

The critical area is the divorce bill, which Davis has ruled out putting a figure on for the next couple of months, as talks intensify. While declining to show his hand, the Brexit secretary has insisted it will not be as much as the UK currently pays, although estimates range from €25bn to €100bn.

Still, that's not enough for Barnier, who also tweeted his frustration today, saying "we need clear #UK positions on all issues".

Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, also blamed the lack of movement on the UK, suggesting that not enough progress had been made for talks to be widened out to include trade discussions.

He said:

If only one party around the table is putting a position and the other party is not responding then it is difficult to start a negotiation....

Here is now more and more recognition of the need of such a transition period. What will be the substance of this transition deal? That has to be discussed I think that the more and more time we lose in the coming months, the more and more it is clear that the transition period can only be the prolongation of the existing situation, of the status quo.

The MEP also tweeted his frustration at the process, saying: "I know a divorce is never easy, but a strong future partnership is in the best interest of all."

But he was shot down by Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, co-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

"For him to suggest, with more than a week of negotiations still to take place, that sufficient progress will not have been made by October to allow talks to begin on Britain's future relationship with the EU, is premature and way beyond his pay grade," Kamall said.

"Unless he has a crystal ball how can he predict the outcome of negotiations at which he is not even present These are matters for the whole Parliament to debate and Mr Verhofstadt should not try to dictate the outcome. He needs to stop trying to do Michel Barnier's job and stick to his own role as an honest broker."

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