Michel Barnier says UK must clarify position on Brexit bill in the next two weeks
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator has said the UK must clarify its position on the 'divorce bill' within two weeks for talks to move on to the future trading relationship by December.
The European Commission has made clear there must be "sufficient progress" on citizens' rights, Northern Ireland and the Brexit bill before the two sides can move on to discussing a trade deal.
Last month European Council president Donald Tusk said there was a "green light" for preparatory work on a future trading relationship, although French president Emmanuel Macron insisted the UK was "not even halfway" to resolving the issue of the financial settlement.
Speaking at the end of the sixth round of negotiations, Michel Barnier stressed the urgency of reaching a common position on the UK's exit payments in time for next month's crunch meeting.
Appearing alongside Brexit Secretary David Davis at a press conference in Brussels, the Frenchman said:
"We need to work now over the next few weeks on the objective interpretation of the undertakings entered into by Prime Minister May in Florence, I think this is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December."
"I repeat that it is just a matter of settling accounts, as in any separation. Ladies and gents, the UK decided to leave the EU, more than 500 days ago and it will be leaving the Union on 29 March at midnight Brussels time," he added.
"In order to achieve our common objective…we will work as intensely as is necessary in the weeks to come in the run-up to the next European Council meeting."
Asked whether the EU would need "clarifications or concessions" within the next fortnight in order to move to the second phase of negotiations in December, Mr Barnier replied simply : "My answer is yes."
At the same time he insisted the EU were "not asking for concessions" from the UK.
"In this extraordinary negotiation, this extraordinarily complex negotiation that we are not asking the UK for concessions, nor are we planning to make any concessions ourselves," Mr Barnier said.
"We are basing ourselves on facts…we must and we want to bring back certainty, in particular legal certainty where Brexit has created uncertainty and a fair amount of concern
Mr Davis said there had been a "change in pace" after the positive fifth round of negotiations, but he added that "ultimately this is about delivering results and that will depend on the content, not just the speed of the negotiation".