UK, EU officials deliberate over responsibilities in Brexit

World Today

The EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis address the media after a week of negotiations at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday July 20, 2017. UK’s chief Brexit negotiator says week of talks with EU has given “us a lot to be positive about” (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Taking the next step in Brexit, as U.K. and EU officials meet. But was it a step forward – or a step back? The issue at hand: a lack of flexibility from each side.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports from Brussels.

In the week before the summer break, the U.K. and the EU get down to the real business of divorce.  The focus was on three core issues: citizens’ rights, that massive financial settlement and ensuring there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. As negotiators headed into Day One, the mood was positive. 

But from the get go, the optics weren’t looking good.

First, the British side were lampooned for not coming to Brussels prepared after this photo opportunity.  But it was the hasty exit of the U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis after only a few hours in Brussels on Monday that became the talk of the town. But with 90 or so U.K. officials in Brussels, analysts were asking, surely some progress was made? Back in Brussels on Thursday, Davis had this to say.

“I’m encouraged by the progress we have made on understanding each others positions,” Davis said. “On citizens’ rights, financial settlement, the first meetings of sub-groups on separation issues and Ireland and NI.  Since first round, the UK has published its position on citizen rights. The talks this week demonstrate this is both a fair and serious offer.  I’m pleased by the progress we made.”

But that didn’t seem to be how EU representatives saw it.  They showed increasing signs of frustration at the U.K. and talked of a fundamental divergence on citizen rights.

“One fundamental divergence – rights of future family members and export of social benefits,” the EU’s Lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said. “We cannot guarantee rights unless there is oversight by the European Court of Justice.  I said to David clearly, we need clarification from the U.K. on their financial obligations to the EU.  All accounts need to be settled.  The EU is still waiting for the U.K. position on the financial settlement. Until we know that, the talks cannot move forward.”

 These negotiations can be summed up in three words: failure to deliver. The EU is still looking for answers from the U.K. on citizen rights, the divorce settlement and the Irish border.  So all eyes now will be turned to Round 3 of the talks.