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Jean-Claude Juncker hits out at UK's Brexit papers and says talks timetable has not changed

Jean-Claude Juncker hits out at UK's Brexit papers and says talks timetable has not changed
3 min read

Jean-Claude Juncker has hit out at the UK Government for its “unsatisfactory” proposed solutions to some of the key sticking points in the Brexit negotiations. 

The European Commission president also shot down British demands that negotiations move on to the UK's future trade relationship with the EU before agreement is reached on the Irish border, citizens' rights and the Brexit divorce bill.

Mr Juncker said the EU had to be “crystal clear” that it would stick to its previously-stated sequencing, which dictated that no negotiations on the future terms would begin until “sufficient progress” was made on those three issues.

The UK Government published a number of documents in the last two weeks setting out possible ways to solve issues ranging from the Irish border to post-Brexit customs arrangements.

But speaking at a conference of EU ambassadors today, Mr Juncker said he was unimpressed by the UK position.

“I did read, with the requisite attention, all the papers produced by Her Majesty’s government and none of those is actually satisfactory,” he said.

“So there is still an enormous amount of issues which remain to be settled.

“Not just on the border problems regarding Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a very serious problem in respect of which we have had no definitive response, but we also have the status of European citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living on the continent.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis has argued that discussions about the EU’s priorities and the two parties’ future relationship are “inextricably linked” and should take place at the same time.

But Mr Juncker gave a blunt rejection of such a shift.

“We need to be crystal clear that we will commence no negotiations on the new relationship – particularly a new economic and trade relationship – between the UK and the EU before all these questions are resolved,” he said.

“First of all we settle the past before we look forward to the future.”

Mr Juncker’s comments come the day after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was “concerned” at the slow progress of talks and the “ambiguity” of the UK’s position.

Mr Davis, meanwhile, called on Brussels to show “flexibility and imagination” to resolve the difficulties.

In response to Mr Juncker's remarks, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: "From our perspective, we've just begun the third round of talks, we felt the first two were positive and constructive.

"We believe we're in a good position and would like to get on to discuss our future relationship.

"As David Davis has said, we believe that we need the EU to show some more imagination and flexibility than it has in these discussions."

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