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Difference of Opinion

Concluding the end of the latest round of Brexit talks a jointly held press conference between the two chief negotiators, Michel Barnier and David Davis, held on Sunday, highlighted an apparently growing difference of opinion between the two sides rather than any meaningful advancement towards agreement on the three key issues presently under discussion; Citizens’ Rights, Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the financial settlement.

Mr Barnier was particularly scathing about the lack of headway the three rounds of talk have made to date. He was adamant that as things stand he could not recommend to the European council that the talks can move forward to discussing the future relationship.

Meanwhile David Davis refuted this saying he believed the talks had produced some positive markers.

“I mean, Michel referred to one, but I think there’s been more than that.”  He said.

His perspective was that some “concrete” progress had been made. He referred to the talks so far as:

“a productive, important stepping stone.” 

However when it came to the detail the differences over UK’s on-going financial liabilities and the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK seemed to illustrate how divergent the two sides are on the substance of the discussions.

On the issue of financial liabilities the UK has not yet put forward any position paper, rather it is reacting to the negotiating paper Essential Principles on Financial Settlement” submitted by the EU Commission and published on its website on 12 June 2017.

Mr Davis referred to this paper as “a claim” by the EU.

“The European Union made a claim on the United Kingdom, on the United Kingdom taxpayer, for a large sum of money —unspecified, but undoubtedly large — and on the basis of what it determined to be our legal obligations.”  

He went on to add “It’s fair to say; across the piece we have a very different legal stance.”    Although the UK has not yet furnished anyone with what its legal stance is.

Michel Barnier cited the recent incidence of the Home Office mistake of sending out incorrect letters to a number of EU citizens telling them to leave the UK or be subject to detention and removal as a concrete reason the ECJ must continue to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

Mr Davis response was to stand shaking his head at this comment at the press conference.

Michel Barnier’s assessment of the present position was:

 “The current state of progress means we are quite far from being able to say sufficient progress has taken place – not far enough for me to be able to say to the European council that we can start to discuss the future relationship.”

Meanwhile David Davis expressed his frustration saying that the EU side remains too rigid in its approach to the talks by refusing to move onto the future relationship. He commented:

“Our discussions this week have exposed yet again, that the U.K.’s approach is substantially more flexible and pragmatic than that of the EU because it avoids unnecessary disruption for businesses and consumers. We proposed pragmatic solutions to prevent this disruption and we urge the EU to be more imaginative and flexible in their approach to withdrawal.”

The war of words sums up the mood with another rapid exchange between Michel Barnier and David Davis.

“British positions are nostalgic, they involve wanting to benefit from all single market benefits without being in it,”

Barnier announced at the press conference as Davis stood on a podium alongside side him.

Davis responded quickly with:

“I wouldn’t confuse a belief in the free market for nostalgia.”

This is not looking like an amicable settlement at all.

Brexit Blog References

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/31/no-decisive-progress-on-key-issues-says-eus-chief-brexit-negotiator?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=241810&subid=391234&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

https://realinfonews.com/david-davis-barniers-brexit-stance-looks-silly

http://www.politico.eu/article/after-three-rounds-of-brexit-talks-a-gaping-divide/

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/essential-principles-financial_settlement_en_2.pdf

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