Brexit secretary David Davis and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier must end their stalemate over Brexit talks

Julian Harris
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Davis and Barnier are at loggerheads over when the talks can progress to a trade deal (Source: Getty)

David Davis and Michel Barnier were exchanging petit swipes again last night, ahead of the fourth round of Brexit negotiations.

"There are no excuses for standing in the way of progress," Davis said, repeating calls for a more pragmatic approach to the talks.

Barnier was in little mood for pragmatism, doubling down on his insistence that talks cannot progress until more details are agreed over the Irish border, citizens' rights and, crucially, the UK's so-called divorce bill.

"It is a moment for clarity," Barnier said, alluding to claims that the British team is at times wilfully vague.

Read more: City of London experts unveil a blueprint for Brexit

Away from the bluster of Westminster and Brussels, meanwhile, a team of experts in the City has been getting stuck into the crucial issue of how to secure a post-Brexit trade deal that benefits people on both sides of the Channel.

Led by former City minister Mark Hoban, the team's proposals are to be welcomed. The report lays out an inspiring path to a Brexit wherein financial services firms can continue to trade freely and support the continent's much-needed growth.

However, it also acts as a reminder of the complexities and political hurdles that stand in the way.

Read more: Top UK tech entrepreneurs to meet French President for post-Brexit talks

For example, some Brexit-backers will no doubt object to the regulatory proximity between the UK and Brussels that the report says is necessary to maintain free trade links.

Disputes over the role of the ECJ are not easily soluble either. Then there are the specific circumstances among a range of complex sectors such as pharmaceuticals and aviation, combined with an array of vested interests and political biases across nearly 30 EU states.

Hammering out such a deal is vital for the economic health of both the UK and the rest of Europe, but, as Barnier likes to remind us, the clock is ticking. Expect the next 18 months to pass at an even quicker speed than the last six.

While one can understand the political jostling involved in such high level negotiations, it is crucial both sides find a way to move beyond the current sticking points so that talks can progress to substantially more important and complicated matters.

Read more: PM backed by business and backbench to make divorce bill pledge

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