EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has gotten it “spot on” in criticising the lack of progress from Britain on three major issues including Ireland, said Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Coveney said that while he welcomed the greater ambition from the UK in its recent discussion papers, tough decisions must be made to deliver.
“Michel Barnier is spot on,” he said. “Those hard choices are not for the EU to make, but for Britain. The EU has been consistant and clear in what it has called for and there is now a need to Britain to deliver.
“Ambiguity still exists and that needs to be addressed and while I don’t want to be dismissive of the British paper but certainly we need to see substantive progress before October.”
Mr Barnier issued the blunt warning to the UK yesterday that there must be progress on the so-called separation issues before the negotiations can move towards the future trade relationship.
He said: “To be honest, I am concerned. Time passes quickly. I welcome the UK government’s paper[s]. We have read them very carefully. But we need UK positions on all separation issues.
“This is necessary to make sufficient progress. We must start negotiating seriously. We need UK papers that are clear in order to have constructive negotiations.”
Mr Barnier was standing next to Britain’s Brexit secretary, David Davis, at the start of the third series of talks in Brussels when he issued his rebuke.
The EU wants clear commitments from Britain on the financial settlement on exit, on EU citizens’ rights, and on Ireland, before it will move towards the future trading relationship between the EU and UK.
The UK has been attempting to increase pressure on the EU to accelerate the move towards the future relationship ahead of the EU’s own timetable. This pressure was rejected by Mr Barnier, who levelled a thinly veiled accusation that the UK’s position was still ambiguous on the issues of concern to the EU.
“The sooner we remove the ambiguity,” said Mr Barnier, as the two arrived with officials at European Commission headquarters, “the sooner we will be in a position to discuss the future relationship and a transitional period”.
Mr Barnier said: “The European Council guidelines are clear. That what is expected on separation, on transition, on conditions for a future relationship. The EU27 and the European Parliament stand united. They will not accept that separation issues are not addressed properly.
“I’m ready to intensify negotiations over the coming weeks in order to advance.”
In response, Mr Davis said the UK had published a large number of papers covering a range of “important issues” and “our vision for a deep and special partnership that we want with the EU in the future”.
He said: “They are the products of hard work and detailed thinking that’s been going on behind the scenes, not just in the last few weeks but in the last 12 months, and should for the basis of what I hope will be a constructive week of talks between the European Commission and the United Kingdom.”
Mr Davis said the week was about driving forward technical discussions on all the issues.
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