UK and EU clash over ‘fundamental’ differences on citizens’ rights and divorce bill

EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The European Union's top Brexit negotiator has demanded the government clarifies its position on citizens' rights and stumps up a Brexit divorce bill.

After four days of negotiation talks Michel Barnier said the UK and Brussels have 'fundamental' disagreements over citizens' rights and there must be 'clarification' on Britain's position on a number of issues.

The sticking point is Barnier's insistence on rights being backed by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

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He 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.'

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Barnier added that UK's willingness to pay a fee to Brussels will be required before talks can move on to a future trade deal: '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.'

Brexit Secretary David Davis said talks had been 'robust' but there was a lot to be 'positive' about. Davis faced criticism at the start of the week when he and his team were pictured without any papers around the negotiating table and he left talks in Brussels and headed back to London within hours.

Barnier explained the first round of talks had been about organisation, this week had been about presentation and the 'third round must be about clarification'.

He said: 'We require this clarification on the financial settlement, on citizens' rights, on Ireland - with the two key points of the common travel area and the Good Friday Agreement - and the other separation issues where this week's experience has quite simply shown we make better progress where our respective positions are clear.'

But a more optimistic Davis said: 'Overall I'm encouraged by the progress we have made on understanding each other's positions.'

He said the talks had demonstrated the UK had made a 'fair and serious offer' on citizens' rights and there were 'many concrete areas where we agree, as well as areas where there will be further discussion' which will be a priority in the next round.

On the financial settlement, Davis said: 'We both recognise the importance of sorting out the obligations we have to one another, both legally and in a spirit of mutual cooperation.

'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.'

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