Brussels officials have poured cold water on Britain’s threat to bypass the EU and open one-on-one Brexit negotiations with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
The British government is frustrated that the EU will not discuss the terms of the future EU-UK relationship until secession issues like the “divorce bill” and the rights of EU citizens are settled.
As a result Downing Street is reportedly planning to go over the heads of the EU negotiating team and go directly to world leaders: where they hope they will get a warmer reception on the subject of trade.
The plan comes after harsh words from Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier about Britain’s approach to the talks so far – with Mr Barnier urging the UK to begin negotiating “seriously”.
But asked about the threat to go directly to member states, Brussels officials close to the negotiations pointed to a statement agreed by member states, including France and Germany, that they would abstain from any separate side talks.
The European Council’s negotiating plan says the negotiations are to be conducted as “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately”
“So as not to undercut the position of the Union, there will be no separate negotiations between individual Member States and the United Kingdom on matters pertaining to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union,” they say.
The French government also said earlier this week that it "fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier's negotiating mandate" and that suggestions in the British eurosceptic press that it would bypass him “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”.
Brexit Secretary Mr Davis said at the start of the latest round of talks that he wanted to see "flexibility and imagination on both sides".
"Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more," he said.
Defending the UK's position papers from criticism by the Commission, the minister said they were the product of "hard work and detailed thinking that has been going on behind the scenes" for the last year.
EU and UK officials have been meeting in Brussels for the third round of negotiations this week, with issues on the table including the divorce bill, the Northern Ireland border, and the rights of EU citizens.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies