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10th Dec 2022

'We are not there yet', Barnier tells UK

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday (29 November) work is still ongoing to reach a deal with the UK this week on all three key divorce issues, after reports the UK and EU negotiators reached a broad outline deal on the financial bill.

A possible agreement on the overall divorce bill – that still needs to be agreed by member states' representatives – would overcome one of the key hurdles in the Brexit talks, the financial settlement.

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The Financial Times reported that the UK agreed to assume EU liabilities worth up to €100 billion - but spread over many decades, the net amount could be much lower.

Speaking in Berlin at a conference Barnier dismissed the reports.

"There is a subject on which we are continuing to work — despite the claims or rumours in the press today, that's the issue of financial engagements," Barnier was quoted by AFP.

The UK has been reluctant for months to give details on what it is willing to pay from previous commitments.

In September, British prime minister Theresa May said in a speech in Florence that EU countries would not have to pay more or receive less to the EU budget after the UK leaves the bloc, and that the UK would honour its previous commitments.

However, she has not clarified what that would cover.

The EU wanted the UK to clarify payment commitments on issues such as the Turkey Fund, the European Development Fund, loans and pension payments.

Negotiators have not focused on numbers, but on what the UK is willing to pay, and EU officials told their UK counterparts the bloc is willing to help London present the estimates, to save May from political backlash by hardline Brexiteers.

Another remaining outstanding issue is the Irish border in negotiations.

Ireland and the EU wants the UK to spell out how it would avoid the establishment of border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit when it becomes the EU's new external border.

Ireland urged the UK to keep the same rules in Northern Ireland after Brexit, in order to avoid a hard border.

"We re not there yet," Michel Barnier told an audience in Berlin, at a security conference.

"The work on the three main subjects continues this week in a constructive spirit with the UK," he added.

The UK has until Monday (4 December) to come forward with a proposal on Ireland.

On Monday European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will host British prime minister Theresa May for lunch.

She is expected to present the UK's offer on all three key divorce issues, including citizens' rights.

A tentatively planned meeting between Barnier and UK Brexit minister David Davishas now been scrapped.

Barnier reiterated on Wednesday that if "real" sufficient progress is made on the three key issues, EU leaders at their December summit will be able to open discussions on a possible transition period and future relations with the UK.

EU countries in 2018 will define the framework of the new partnership with the UK, Barnier added.

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