EU's Barnier Seeks Clarity From U.K. Over Brexit Divorce Bill

By Laurence Norman and Stephen Fidler Features Dow Jones Newswires

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said some progress was made in the second round of Brexit talks this week but urged the U.K to offer more clarity on its positions on the divorce bill and several other important issues.

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This week's four days of talks focused on major divorce issues which are raised by Britain's exit from the bloc, expected in March 2019.

The EU has said it wants to see "sufficient progress" on these priority issues--the divorce bill, citizens rights, Northern Ireland and other divorce issues--to start discussions on a future trade agreement with the U.K. Mr. Barnier has said he hopes to say that threshold has been met in October.

In a joint news conference Thursday afternoon with U.K. Brexit secretary David Davis, Mr. Barnier urged the U.K to move quickly to lay out its position on the divorce bill, past British spending pledges the EU says the U.K must commit to.

"I said very clearly to David a clarification of the U.K. position is indispensable" to make "sufficient progress" In the talks, he said.

Mr. Davis said Britain has made it clear that it will stand by its commitments but wouldn't comment on whether that required a net payment from the U.K. to the EU. EU officials have said they believe Britain would need to pay upward of EUR60 billion ($69 billion).

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Mr. Barnier said there was progress on post-Brexit citizens rights of EU nationals in Britain and U.K. nationals in the EU. He said talks were moving in a "common direction."

However, the former French foreign minister identified a series of major differences on citizens rights, including the EU view that EU courts must be the guarantor of post-Brexit rights of EU citizens in Britain. The U.K. has said it wants to reach an international agreement which would be enforced in the U.K. by British courts.

Mr. Davis was more upbeat in his take on this week's talks. He said the two sides had "robust and constructive talks" and there was much to be positive about following the four-day negotiating session. However, he acknowledged there will need to be "flexibility from both sides" for further progress.

This week's talks come as U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May sought to quell cabinet leaks and divisions over Brexit and other issues. Ms. May's Conservative party lost its parliamentary majority following snap elections called for June 8.

That has raised the risk that the government will be unable to get important Brexit-related legislation approved in parliament and raised pressure on Ms. May to soften her Brexit negotiation objectives.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com and Stephen Fidler at stephen.fidler@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 20, 2017 07:57 ET (11:57 GMT)