Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, has expressed concern over the failure of the UK Government to publish a position paper on the UK’s potential financial liabilities, warning Britain to start taking negotiations seriously with the European Commission commenting “…to be honest, I’m concerned. Time passes quickly. We need UK positions on all separation issues. This is necessary to make sufficient progress. We must start negotiating seriously. We need UK papers that are clear in order to have constructive negotiations, and the sooner we remove the ambiguity, the sooner we will be in a position to discuss the future relationship and a transitional period”. Ahead of upcoming talks this week between the two sides, British sources have explained that the lack of a position paper was deliberate, with the UK Government not prepared to commit to a financial settlement without the EU agreeing to discuss a transition period and future customs agreement. Meanwhile, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, has warned the Prime Minister that failure to make significant progress in the negotiations by the end of the year would damage UK business as companies begin to implement contingency plans for a ‘hard’ Brexit. Mr. Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said he wanted to also make progress with the negotiations as soon as possible “… 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, but in order to do that we require flexibility and imagination from both sides, like the European Council asked for on some subjects,” (referring to EU leaders’ political guidelines on Irish issues). British and EU diplomats have privately acknowledged that a solution to Britain’s exit bill must come in part from a transitional arrangement, which would effectively continue the UK’s budget contributions for a further two years after the UK officially leaves the European Union in 2019.
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