No progress on talks if UK will not admit bill exists

Guy Verhofstadt is the EU parliament's coodinator for Brexit

Britain must admit it will have to pay an exit bill for the Brexit negotiations to progress, MEPs said in a discussion in Brussels today.

EU parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said that the UK has not produced a ‘position paper’ in response the one the EU published a month ago.

“At the moment we don’t even know if the UK even recognises there is a financial settlement to make. This uncertainty must disappear as fast as possible at the start of the negotiations. We can’t deal with one topic while not even recognising that other topics exist.” He was speaking to members of the constitutional affairs committee.

Committee chair Danüta Hubner said that so far the UK had not matched the transparency of the EU, which has placed a number of position papers on different aspects of the negotiations on a public site. So for the UK’s main publication is its paper on expat rights.

Left-wing MEP Helmut Scholz asked if there is any progress on the possibility of ‘de-linking’ the matter of citizens’ (expats’) rights from other issues to be negotiated. “Britons in the EU and EU citizens are concerned about this idea that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said.

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Mr Verhofstadt said: “I am very much in favour of giving the fastest possible certainty to the citizens but we can only do that once we have, as fast as possible, a recognition from the UK that there is a financial settlement to be made. We don’t need to agree on the figures, but at least on the principle.

“That should help speed up the other important issues on the table and especially citizens’ rights.”

Also in the discussion Mr Verhofstadt reiterated criticisms of shortcomings he and the parliament’s Brexit steering group identify in the UK’s offer for expat rights, which have now also be laid out formally in a paper at this link.

He said the EU’s position should be that expats, whether EU citizens in the UK or Britons in the EU, should lose no rights due to Brexit compared to now and he said MEPs are asking that EU negotiator Michel Barnier insists on this as the Brexit talks continue from Monday. There will be a final meeting between Mr Barnier and MEPs tomorrow, the committee heard.

Connexion has asked if we may send questions to Mr Verhofstadt related to the parliament’s position on expat rights. We are awaiting a reply.

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