No trade deal before financial settlement - Barnier

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has urged the UK to provide more clarity over the UK’s financial contribution to the EU after Brexit, on citizen’s rights, on the Good Friday Agreement and on the common travel area at a press conference following the second week of Brexit negotiations. Barnier said that the UK must provide clarity on these issues before talks regarding a future trade deal can start.

Since last month’s election, the government’s approach to Brexit appears to have experienced a period of rapid change. Government officials have seemingly softened their rhetoric regarding on some issues, including the form of EEA ‘access’ the UK is seeking and the UK’s membership of bodies like Euratom.

At the same time, they have fallen short on other issues, notably the financial settlement that the UK is set to pay the EU after Brexit. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, among others, has heightened his rhetoric in recent weeks, saying that the EU could ‘go whistle’ if their demands exceed what he believes are reasonable. Other issues of contention include sections of the ‘Great Repeal Bill’, which would take the UK out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the government’s offer to EU citizens living in the UK, which fell far short of what was expected (requiring 5 years of residence within the UK to claim permanent residency, and failing to provide EU nationals that meet that threshold with the same rights they have now).

Barnier 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."

The negotiator also stressed that there will be no compromise in the negotiations should the UK not accept its financial responsibilities to the EU, saying:

"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."

David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, was less strong in his rhetoric, saying:

 "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."

UKIP, along with a group of Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers, has previously called for the UK to leave the EU with no financial settlement, stressing that they would prefer the ‘no deal’ nuclear Brexit option. Since last month's election, the government's rhetoric has moved swiftly away from 'no deal is better than a bad deal' and it is understood that the nuclear option is now firmly off the table.