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Davis warned to end 'ambiguity' as fresh talks begin in Brussels

By Shaun Connolly

Brexit Secretary David Davis has been told by the EU's chief negotiator that the UK needs to clarify its position and end "ambiguity" if it wants "serious" withdrawal talks.

As a fresh round of negotiations began in Brussels, Michel Barnier made it clear the European Commission needed more openness from Britain on the divorce deal before future relations and transitional arrangements could be discussed.

"We need you to take positions on all separation issues. This is necessary to make sufficient progress. We must start negotiating seriously," he said.

"We need UK papers that are clear in order to have constructive negotiations. And the sooner we remove the ambiguity, the sooner we will be in a position to discuss the future relationship and a transitional period.

"The EU 27 and the European Parliament stand united. They will not accept that separation issues are not addressed properly.

"I am ready to intensify negotiations over the coming weeks in order to advance."

Mr Barnier added: "To be honest, I'm concerned, time passes quickly."

In response, Mr Davis said Britain was ready to "roll up its sleeves" to get a deal.

He said: "For the United Kingdom the week ahead is about driving forward the technical discussions across all the issues.

"We want to lock in the points where we agree, unpick the areas where we disagree and make further progress on the whole range of issues."

He said this will "require flexibility and imagination from both sides", adding: "And we are ready to roll up our sleeves and get down to work again once more."

Ahead of the talks, Mr Davis was believed to be frustrated at Mr Barnier's insistence that progress must be made on fixing the UK's 'divorce' bill before moving on to talks on future trade.

He believes a series of papers produced by his department for exiting the EU over the past fortnight have proved that the two issues are inextricably linked.

Meanwhile, Brussels is understood to be infuriated by Britain's refusal even to spell out how it thinks its liabilities to the EU should be calculated, let alone put a figure on the final bill, variously estimated at between £50bn and £80bn.

Mr Davis insisted the British position papers were sufficiently detailed, stating: "They are the products of hard work and detailed thinking that has been going on behind the scenes not just in the last few weeks, but for the last 12 months, and should form the basis of what I hope will be a constructive week of talks."

The third round of withdrawal talks began after Labour's decision to promise to keep the UK in the single market and customs union after March 2019.

Northern Ireland issues are likely to be discussed tomorrow.

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