The European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier today said the UK and the EU had made no "decisive progress" on any key issues in Brexit talks, as arguments between the two sides spilled into the open.
Barnier indicated that the October deadline for the next stage of talks would not be met, saying "the quality" of the agreement was more important than the speed. On this, if little else, Brexit secretary David Davis agreed.
The EU has insisted that "sufficient progress" must be made on the separation issues discussed this week before it will countenance discussing the future trading relationship. However, Barnier said he was “quite far” from being able to advise EU leaders to open phase two of Brexit talks in October as planned.
However, Davis denied there was an impasse, saying "some concrete progress" was evident.
The MP outlined a number of areas on which progress had been made, particularly with citizens' rights. Both sides have agreed to protect the rights of frontier workers, to cover future social security contributions for those covered by the withdrawal agreement, and that existing healthcare rights and arrangements will be protected.
"That is good news, for example, for British pensioners in the EU," Davis said. "It means that they will continue to have their health care arrangements protected both where they live and – when they travel to another member state – to be able to use an EHIC card."
British citizens in the EU27 will still have the right to set up and manage a business within their member state of residence, and vice versa, while progress has been made in protecting the recognition of qualifications on both sides.
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There was "a high degree of convergence" on the question of the Irish border, Davis said. Both sides have agreed to carry out further joint technical work on cross-border co-operation under the Good Friday Agreement.
However, on the divorce bill, Davis said the two sides "have a very different legal stance".
"We have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it [the divorce bill] rigorously."
"I think we have succeeded in building mutual understanding, but it is also clear that there are still significant differences to be bridged," he added.
Last night it emerged that British negotiators had made a three-hour presentation rejecting the legal case for the divorce, astonishing their EU counterparts. Barnier today criticised the British stance, saying the UK was threatening not to honour pre-existing obligations.
Barnier added there was a lack of "trust" between the two sides, citing deportation letters sent to some EU citizens accidentally by the government over the summer.
Both politicians acknowledged that some progress had been made on issues such as citizens' rights and the post-Brexit situation on the British-Irish border.
However, the divisions between the two sides were more striking in sometimes testy exchanges, underscoring the rising tensions between the two sides.
Barnier claimed some of the UK's position papers, presented over the course of the last month, showed signs of a "sort of nostalgia" for the benefits of the Single Market. Davis shot back that "I wouldn't confuse a belief in the free market as nostalgia."