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Downing Street rejects ex-diplomat’s claim that Brexit talks did not start well

Sir Simon Fraser, who now advises businesses on Brexit and foreign policy, said Britain had not put forward a lot.

Downing Street has rejected a claim by the former head of the diplomatic service that the Brexit talks have not begun promisingly for the UK.

Sir Simon Fraser, who was the chief mandarin at the Foreign Office until 2015, said Cabinet divisions made it hard for the Government to establish a clear position and that it had been “a bit absent” from the negotiations in Brussels.

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Sir Simon was the chief mandarin at the Foreign Office until 2015 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

His comments were rejected by the Prime Minister’s official spokesman who said the two rounds of talks which took place between Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier had made important progress.

“We would disagree strongly (with Sir Simon’s comments). The last two months, we have had a constructive start to the negotiations. We have covered a significant amount of important ground,” the spokesman said.

“As the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said at the end of the last negotiating round, important progress has been made in understanding one another’s positions on key issues.”

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Sir Simon, who now advises businesses on Brexit and foreign policy, said: “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.”

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