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No 10 rejects ex Foreign Office chief's criticism of Brexit negotiation position

No 10 rejects ex Foreign Office chief's criticism of Brexit negotiation position

John Ashmore

2 min read

Downing Street has hit back at a former senior civil servant who criticised the Government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. 

Sir Simon Fraser, who was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office until 2015, said rows between Cabinet ministers had meant the UK had not “put forward a lot” in the early stages of the process.

“Until those differences are further resolved I think it's very difficult for us to have a clear position,” he told the BBC.

Reports of rows over the size of the so-called “divorce bill”, the rights of EU citizens already in the UK, and the role of the European Court of Justice have dominated the coverage of the initial talks between the British and EU teams.

But the Prime Minister’s spokesman dismissed Sir Simon’s suggestion that negotiations had not begun “particularly promisingly”.

The spokesman said: “We would disagree strongly, the last two months we've had a constructive start to negotiations, we've covered a significant amount of common ground.

“[The Prime Minister's] Lancaster House [speech] set out a very clear plan and that's the plan that we're working towards.”

The spokesman also refused to be drawn on a report in the Sunday Telegraph that the Government was willing to pay up to 36 million euros to settle the “divorce bill”.

“We made clear, the Prime Minister made clear in the letter triggering Article 50 that UK and EU need to discuss a fair settlement of both our rights and obligations but in terms of this figure, I don't recognise it, no,” he said. 

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