Michel Barnier 'wants to start work on trade talks'
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator is pushing to begin work on the future trading relationship with the UK, despite opposition from the German government.
The Times reports that Michel Barnier will ask the heads of EU member states for permission to start preparatory work on both a transitional arrangement and a future trade deal.
The Frenchman will hold talks with the EU27 on his negotiating mandate from October until December, with the hope of getting talks on the transition up and running.
Last Friday Mr Barnier called for his existing guidelines, which do not allow for discussion of transitional arrangements, to be relaxed.
However the German government are said to want written assurances on the size of the UK's so-called 'divorce bill'.
A diplomatic source told the paper: "Germany wants more and it wants it more or less in writing. That is toxic for the British."
Brexit Secretary David Davis has so far refused to commit to a specific number, although Theresa May signalled in her recent Florence speech that the UK would contribute at least €20bn into the EU budget after Brexit.
TUSK'S DECEMBER WARNING
Elsewhere the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, suggested a 'no deal' scenario could become more likely if there is not more progress on exit talks by the end of this year.
“We are negotiating in good faith, and we still hope that the so-called ‘sufficient progress’ will be possible by December,” he said.
“However, if it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that ‘sufficient progress’ hasn’t been reached, then together with our UK friends we will have to think about where we are heading.”