Michel Barnier: It could take 'weeks or even months' until Brexit negotiations progress

LONDON — Brexit talks have seen “important progress” but it could still be “weeks or even months” until they can move onto the next stage, according to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Speaking at a joint press conference with UK Brexit Secretary David Davis on Thursday morning, Barnier said Theresa May’s Florence speech had “created a new dynamic” in talks but key differences in negotiating positions remained.

In particular, the two sides are yet to reach agreements on the issues of Britain’s financial obligations and the role of ECJ judges after Brexit, Barnier said this morning. He added that a “big gap” remains between Britain and the EU on the issue of family reunification for EU citizens living in Britain.

On Britain’s financial obligations, sometimes referred to as the “divorce bill,” Barnier said: “Commitments undertaken at 28 [member states] must be honoured at 28.”

“We had a constructive discussion and we made progress in some areas… But we are not in a position of sufficient progress,” Barnier said, later adding that it could take “weeks or even months” to finish the first stage of talks.

Barnier added in no uncertain terms that the EU sees “no possible link” between divorce arrangements and the issue of Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The UK side has repeatedly insisted its belief that the terms of Britain’s departure cannot be finalised without consideration of the future UK-EU relationship, including trade ties.

Davis was in a more optimistic compared to previous press conferences, claiming “we’re making decisive steps forward.”

The Conservative minister accepted ” there are differences in opinion” but said progress had been made in talks, particularly on the issue of the Irish border.

“We made important progress and capitalised on momentum created by the prime minister’s speech,” Davis said.

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