Barnier: No deal yet on UK divorce bill
May expected to table proposals during meeting with Juncker
1 December, 2017
There is no agreement reached on Brexit bill, and work on it is still ongoing, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said last Wednesday at a speech in Berlin, thus countering reports by British media the negotiators had reached a broad outline deal on the financial bill, news wires reported. “There is a subject on which we are continuing to work, despite the claims or rumours in the press today,” Barnier was quoted as saying.
According to the Financial Times, the UK has agreed to assume EU liabilities worth up to €100bn, but spread over many decades, which could effective lower the net amount. Official London has been reluctant for months to give details on what it is willing to pay from previous commitments. The EU wants the UK to clarify payment commitments on issues such as the Turkey Fund, the European Development Fund, loans and pension payments. A possible agreement on the overall divorce bill needs to be agreed by Member States' representatives.
Barnier stressed that there were still differences between London and Brussels positions not only on divorce bill, but on the Irish border and citizens' rights. Speaking at a business conference in Berlin, he pointed out that negotiations would continue before a 4 December meeting between British PM Theresa May and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Irish border issue is among the outstanding obstacles in negotiations. Ireland and the EU demand the UK to spell out how it would avoid the establishment of border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit, when it becomes the EU's external border. Ireland has urged the UK to keep the same rules in Northern Ireland after Brexit, in order to avoid a hard border.
The UK has until 4 December to come forward with a proposal on Ireland. It is expected that May will present a proposal at a lunch with Juncker, together with ideas on divorce bill and citizens' rights. According to British media, London is considering devolving certain powers to Northern Ireland to avoid the possibility of a hard border. UK negotiators have reportedly made a proposal to their EU counterparts, opening the door to a possible transition deal.
In attempt to speed up the talks, EU Council President Donald Tusk was to fly to Dublin on 1 December for talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar as a deadline looms for a deal with Britain on the Northern Ireland border. Tusk last week set an “absolute deadline” of Monday for May to deliver “sufficient progress” in improving London’s divorce offer if EU leaders are to authorise negotiations on a future free trade deal and on a largely status-quo, two-year transition period after Brexit.