UK still a long way off settling Brexit divorce bill, Emmanuel Macron says

French president says the issue is not even half-way completed

Jon Stone
Friday 20 October 2017 14:37
Emmanuel Macron stuck a cautious tone at the summit in Brussels
Emmanuel Macron stuck a cautious tone at the summit in Brussels

Work on settling Britain's financial obligations to the EU when it leaves is not even halfway done, the French president has said.

Emmanuel Macron said Britain was far from what was needed for settling its financial settlement – which is estimated to be at least £20 billion.

“A lot is in the hands of Theresa May,” Macron said in a news conference at the end of a European Council summit in Brussels.

"If, as Prime Minister May said in Florence, we want to make sure that no-one will have to pay more or receive less, and if we want to make sure the UK will comply with all its commitments made as a member of the EU ... I would say we are far from having reached the necessary financial commitments before we can open phase two.

"I can only underline how much work needs to be done."

"I would say we are far from having reached the necessary financial commitments before we can open phase two," he added. "We are not halfway there."

'No decisive progress' on Brexit, says EU negotiator Michel Barnier

Mr Macron’s comments echo those of other national leaders who have expressed concern at the lack of progress on the divorce bill. Dutch PM Mark Rutte also said at the summit in the British side wanted progress it would have to move towards coming up with a number.

But Theresa May said this morning that a final agreement on a figure could only come as part of the final deal.

“I’ve been very clear all along as the UK has, all along throughout this, that the full and final settlement will come as part of the final agreement that we’re getting in relation to the future partnership. I think that’s absolutely right,” she said at a separate press conference at the summit.

Tusk: Reports of a deadlock have been "exaggerated" and talks should reach second phase in December

The divorce bill has the main sticking point of talks because the EU says it will not discuss future trade relationships without it being settled, and the UK says it cannot be settled without discussing the future relationship.

There are some mixed messages coming out of the EU side at the summit, however. Angela Merkel struck a more positive on arrival, saying she was optimistic of a move to trade talks by December.

Council president Donald Tusk on Friday also told reporters he did not believe there was a "deadlock" in negotiations, contradicting a statement by Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

At the same press conference, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stood by the description of a 'deadlock', however.

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