LONDON — The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is preparing for formal talks about the UK’s exit from the bloc to begin on June 19, according to a report in the Guardian on Friday afternoon.
The newspaper reports that Barnier and his Brexit task force have informed other senior figures in Brussels about the plans to begin talks just 10 days after the results of the UK’s general election are confirmed but have not had any contact with British representatives.
That is down to an ongoing dispute between Britain and the EU after the UK blocked changes to the bloc’s budget during a mid-term review. The British government claimed that because it is currently in a purdah period thanks to the upcoming election, it could not approve the changes, which involved the “shuffling of the EU budget to priority areas, such as the migration crisis,” according to the Guardian.
Should talks begin on June 19, it would give the UK and EU around 21 months before Britain formally drops out of the bloc to thrash out terms, following the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29 this year.
Talks between the UK’s team — which will be led by Brexit Secretary David Davis, unless the Labour Party wins a shock victory in the general election on June 8. — will begin with the negotiation of the so-called “divorce bill” Britain must pay Brussels to settle its liabilities to the rest of the bloc.
The EU has repeatedly said Britain will have to settle its debt to the bloc and agree an amount to pay before Brexit talks can properly begin. The amount has ranged from a €60 billion (£50.8 billion) settlement that was previously proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, to as much as €91 billion (£77 billion) and €113 billion (£95.6 billion).
Theresa May and her team have been pushing to negotiate the bill in parallel with other parts of the exit deal, but Brussels remains staunch in its commitment to thrash out an exit payment before any other talks can begin.
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