EU Brexit negotiator frustrated at slow progress

The European Union says the Brexit negotiations are advancing too slowly because there is still not enough clarity on the British side on how the divorce proceedings should proceed.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier says Monday, at the start of a third round of Brexit talks with British officials, that he was concerned “time is passing quickly.” He noted the lack of progress in the talks almost five months after the 2-year negotiating period for Britain to leave the EU began in March.

Speaking in Brussels, Barnier says “I am ready to intensify negotiations.” He insists he wants British positions on Brexit topics that are clear and without ambiguity.

British Brexit negotiator David Davis says the four days of Brexit negotiations this week will have to drive forward “all the issues” instead of just centring on the divorce proceedings that the EU wants to focus on.

Britain wants to determine a future trade relationship with the bloc in lockstep with obtaining an orderly separation from it. The EU, however, wants to have “sufficient progress” on a clear divorce first with Britain before looking at a future relationship.

Davis says “we want to lock in the points where we agree, unpick the areas where we disagree, and make further progress on the whole range of issues.” He says the goal remains the same, a deal in the best interests of both sides and business in the UK and Europe.

The Brexit discussions have made little headway, interrupted by a British general election as well as summer vacations. As things stand, Britain has little idea what relationship it will have with the other 27 countries of the EU past the Brexit date of March 2019.

On the EU side, the frustration is increasingly evident. On Monday, Germany’s main business lobby group criticized the British government for what it called an unclear stance on the future. The head of the Federation of German Industries — an influential group in the EU’s biggest economy — said “appreciable progress can hardly be expected” during four days of talks this week.

Dieter Kempf says British proposals on customs arrangements after the U.K. leaves are impractical for companies.

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