'We must start negotiating seriously' - Barnier

Mr Davis and Mr Barnier spoke to journalists about their hopes for this week's talks

The third round of monthly Brexit negotiations is now under way amid warnings from the EU that they need to move faster.

Speaking at a joint press conference, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: “To be honest I’m concerned. Time passes quickly… We must start negotiating seriously.”

Britain is in a hurry to begin a so-called ‘second phase’ of talks, about transitional arrangements and scoping out the future EU/UK relationship (including trade) – but the EU is insistent that ‘sufficient progress’ must be made on other items first. These include the rights of expats on both sides, the Northern Ireland border arrangements and the exit ‘bill’ the UK must pay.

The UK hopes the European Council (a summit of EU state leaders, plus the body's president Donald Tusk and the president of the EU commission) will green light the second phase on October 20-21. If it does not, the next meeting will be December 14-15.

This comes as the UK released a series of ‘position papers’ outlining its wishes on matters such as the customs, Northern Ireland and future legal enforcement of agreements. However some commentators identified areas they found to be unrealistic – such as wanting to keep benefits of the customs union during transitional years but while still being able to negotiate new trade deals with third parties, or wanting an ‘invisible’ Northern Ireland border controlled by unspecified technological means.

So far no paper has been released to respond to one outlining the contents of the ‘divorce bill’ that the EU put out three months ago. However the parties did make some progress on expat rights last month

Mr Barnier said: “I welcome the UK government’s papers and we have read them very carefully. But we need UK positions on all separation issues.”

He added:  “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.”

He said the EU27 and the EU parliament are united and will “not accept that separation issues are not addressed properly”.

He was ready to “intensify the negotiations in coming weeks so as to progress”, he said.

UK Brexit Minister David Davis said the UK had released a “large number of papers covering important issues related to our withdrawal and our vision for a deep and special partnership with the EU in the future”.

He added: “They are the products of hard work and detailed thinking and should form the basis for what I hope will be a constructive week of talks.”

He said this week they hope to drive forward discussion on technical matters concerning “all of the issues, all of the issues”.

“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. It will require flexibility and imagination on both sides.”

European Commission president Juncker has also urged faster progress today, saying at a conference of EU diplomats: “I did read, with the requisite attention, all the papers produced by Her Majesty’s government and none of those is actually satisfactory. So there is still an enormous amount of issues which remain to be settled."

He said there remained too much “ambiguity”, which had to be resolved before any talk about a new economic and trade relationship.

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