EU demands clarity on Brexit divorce bill when talks resume
A day before Brexit talks resume, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier challenged the Prime Minister and her troubled government on whether she planned on following the US's model of social and economic deregulation or continuing to operate within Europe's mainstream.
Speaking in Rome on Thursday ahead of Friday's resumption of talks, Barnier told his audience the comments made by the US commerce secretary on a recent visit to Number 10 left him with several concerns.
"When I hear the US secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, call in London for the British to diverge with Europe to better converge towards others – towards less regulation, environmental, sanitary, food, probably also financial, fiscal and social – I'm wondering," said Barnier.
"The United Kingdom has chosen to leave the European Union. Will it also want to move away from the European model? That's another question."
"There is behind this European regulatory framework the fundamental societal choices we hold: the social market economy, health protection, food security, fair and efficient financial regulation … it is up to the British to tell us whether they still adhere to the European model," he added.
Barnier also stated that the UK would have to offer up further details on just how much of the estimated €60bn separation settlement it was willing to pay as Germany began to apply pressure on Brussels to take a more commanding approach to negotiations and tell Downing Street, that unless an agreement was reached on the financial settlement in the coming weeks, there would be no hope of discussions on a future relationship with the EU states.
Westminster has demanded that there be some sort of discussion regarding future arrangements before the settlement was agreed upon in order to aide withdrawal issues relating to financial settlement, citizens' rights and the problematic border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
But last month European leaders have agreed to move internal discussions on Brexit onto issues of trade and the exit transition - but not with the UK negotiating team due to the "insufficient progress" made in negotiations.
Jacqueline Foster, deputy leader of the Tory party's MEPs, said on Thursday, "The UK set out a fair and reasonable offer on citizens' rights which is nearly ready to be signed."
"The commission say it's for the member states to sort out, but tell the member states they shouldn't talk to the Brits," she added.
At a summit of EU heads of state in Brussels in October, it was reiterated that moving talks to next negotiations on trade cannot begin until the UK agrees a rough financial settlement it will pay on leaving the bloc.
European Council president Donald Tusk confirmed that the EU27 had given the green light for the member states to begin internal discussions on the second phase, but that this would not yet be discussed with the UK.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who attended the summit, said that there were only a “small number” of outstanding issues left to be resolved and on Friday she refused to confirm or deny that she had been persuaded to increase her original offer of a €20bn Brexit divorce bill to the EU to progress to the next stage of talks.
May would only say that the UK will go through any agreement on contributions “line by line”.