Michel Barnier warns Brexit talks could be delayed over divorce bill row
Brexit negotiations between the UK and the rest of the European Union could be delayed by two months after talks on Britain's divorce bill stalled.
Michel Barnier, the EU's top negotiator, told a top-level Brussels meeting that discussions scheduled for October may have to be put back until December as a result of the impasse.
He said that "sufficient progress" had not been made in the talks which have taken place so far, particularly on the issue of the UK's financial settlement.
Some estimates have put the potential bill at £80bn, and it was reported this week that Theresa May is willing to pay £50bn - a claim denied by Downing Street.
Mr Barnier briefed representatives of the remaining 27 EU member states on the progress of the negotiations with the UK at a meeting yesterday.
An EU source told The Guardian: "(Barnier) didn’t mention any particular area, it was more general, but he said the UK was not providing enough position papers and the chances were not big of sufficient progress being made by October."
Another source told PoliticsHome: "Everyone here thinks he’s just being a sharp negotiator."
Any delay in the talks would be a huge blow for the Government, which had hoped to kick off talks on Britain's future trading relationship with the EU in the autumn.
Labour MP Phil Wilson said: "This government’s chaotic approach to Brexit is irritating our EU partners, stalling negotiations, and putting Britain’s economy at risk. The lack of clarity on vital issues so far from ministers is extraordinary and truly concerning.
"If talks on trade, security and our future relationship with Europe are not started by October, a destructive Brexit with no deal at all could become more likely.
"To protect jobs, our economy and our national security, the Government needs to drop its self-imposed red lines, take a more constructive attitude in negotiations, and focus on retaining our membership of the single market."
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "The Brexiteers’ promise of a quick and easy trade deal have been dashed by our government’s own incompetence.
"The country is now hurtling towards a disastrous Brexit, but Conservative ministers are busy squabbling about chicken. It’s crucial we give people a way out of this mess by giving them a final vote with a chance to remain in the EU."
But a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "Negotiations to leave the EU are under way and we have already made good progress on a number of issues,” she said. “As the secretary of state said, it is important that both sides demonstrate a dynamic and flexible approach to these negotiations.
“Government officials are working at pace and we are confident we will have made sufficient progress by October to advance the talks to the next phase. On the financial settlement, we have been clear that we recognise the UK has obligations to the EU and that the EU also has obligations to the UK.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe