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Barnier says Brexit Irish border talks ‘fruitful’ but no decisive progress

31 August 2017, The Belfast Telegraph.

Talks on how to resolve the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic have been “fruitful” however, there has been no “decisive progress” in the overall Brexit talks, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier said the EU and the UK were still “quite far” away from being in a position to begin discussions on future trade arrangements.

Mr Barnier acknowledged there had been some “fruitful” discussions on the issues surrounding the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Ulster, but he struck a pessimistic tone overall following the latest round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels.

At a joint press conference with Brexit Secretary David Davis, Mr Barnier said: “We did not get any decisive progress on any of the principal subjects.”

The UK wants to begin trade talks as soon as possible, but Brussels insists that discussions about the future relationship after Brexit can only begin once “sufficient progress” has been made on the arrangements for withdrawal – including on the so-called “divorce fee”.

Mr Barnier said: “At the current state of progress we are quite far from being able to say that sufficient progress has taken place, sufficient for me to be able to recommend to the European Council that it engage in discussions on the future relationship between the UK and EU at the same time as we would, during the course of 2018, go on working on finalising the exit and withdrawal agreement.”

Mr Davis said the UK has presented its legal analysis on the financial settlement.

“The Commission has set out its position and we have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it rigorously.

“At this round we presented our legal analysis, on on-budget issues, on off-budget issues, and on the EIB – European Investment Bank.

“It’s fair to say across the piece we have a very different legal stance, but as we said in the Article 50 letter the settlement should be in accordance with law and in the spirit of the UK’s continuing partnership with the EU.”