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UK must spell out willingness to pay Brexit divorce bill, warns EU

Chief negotiator Michael Barnier said there were still ‘fundamental’ disagreements between the two sides.

Brussels has warned Brexit talks will stall unless Britain sets out details of its willingness to pay a divorce bill and demanded clarification on a range of issues after four days of negotiation broke up.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator insisted all accounts “must be settled” when the UK quits the bloc and said he was not ready to compromise in negotiations.

Michel Barnier said “fundamental” disagreements remain over citizens’ rights, arguing that reforms must be underpinned by European courts.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said talks had been “robust but constructive” and urged Brussels to show “flexibility”.

At a press conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier said: “There does remain one fundamental divergence on the way in which such rights would be guaranteed and on several other points, for example, the rights of future family members or the exports of certain social benefits.”

Further details about the UK’s willingness to pay a fee to Brussels will be required before talks can move on to a trade deal, Mr Barnier indicated.

But the UK is understood to think the EU team is being unclear on what it believes the legal obligations are over the divorce bill as well, with frustration on both sides.

Mr Barnier said: “A clarification of the UK position is indispensable for us to negotiate and for us to make sufficient progress on this financial dossier, which is inseparable from the other withdrawal dossiers.

“What we want – and we are working on this – is an orderly withdrawal for the United Kingdom, that’s decided. An orderly withdrawal means accounts must be settled. We know that agreement will not be achieved through incremental steps. As soon as the UK is ready to clarify the nature of its commitments, we will be prepared to discuss this with the British negotiators.”

Mr Davis said: “Overall I’m encouraged by the progress we have made on understanding each other’s positions. We both recognise the importance of sorting out the obligations we have to one another, both legally and in a spirit of mutual co-operation.”

In a sign of the difficulties in reaching agreement he added: “We have had robust but constructive talks this week. Clearly there’s a lot left to talk about and further work before we can resolve this. Ultimately getting to a solution will require flexibility from both sides.”

Mr Barnier said the EU was not ready to compromise in the negotiations until the UK accepts its financial obligations.

He said: “I know one has to compromise in negotiations but we are not there yet. When I say, and I think I was very clear and transparent about that, that there are things that are inseparable from others. That’s the financial settlement, let’s be very clear. We want clarity on that because we need to be able work more until we come to areas of compromise.

“This is not a political point we are making, it’s a legal one. Simply, if there is to be continuity of EU law, that has to be framed by case law of the court. Only the court can interpret EU law. It’s not a choice, it’s an obligation.”

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