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No decisive progress in Brexit talks: EU negotiator

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator on Thursday said no decisive progress had been made in the discussions regarding the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the bloc.

Following a third round of Brexit negotiations, Michel Barnier told journalists gathered at the European Commission in Brussels that at the current state of progress, he was far from being able to advise the European Council on the future relationship between London and Brussels, Efe news reported.

“We did not get any decisive progress on any of the principal subjects,” Barnier said, adding, however, that talks on the future border situation between the Republic of Ireland — an EU member state — and Northern Ireland — a region of the UK — had been fruitful.

Maintaining a soft Irish border is one of the key EU principals in the bloc’s approach to the preliminary stages of the talks, as well as the fate of citizens’ rights and financial obligations on the part of the UK, the report said.

Barnier said he felt that the UK negotiation team, headed by Brexit Secretary David Davis, did not feel obligated to honour its legal commitments to several EU plans and initiatives, some of which are due to last until 2020.

“With such uncertainty, how can we build trust and start discussing a future relationship?” Barnier said.

Davis, whose job was created in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Cabinet following the Brexit referendum in June 2016, said the UK would examine its legal obligations to the EU “line by line”.

Contradicting Barnier’s criticism of slow progress in the talks, Davis said the UK’s approach so far had been more pragmatic than that of the EU and insisted that concrete progress had been made.

The British government has previously advocated for future UK-EU trade discussions to be held at the same time as the preliminary Brexit talks. However, the EU has insisted that its three key points — which include tallying up a UK divorce bill — must be agreed upon before a future relationship can be hammered out.

“Our discussions this week have exposed yet again that the UK’s approach is substantially more flexible and pragmatic than that of the EU as it avoids unnecessary disruption for businesses and consumers,” he said.

Barnier said time was flying and, for that reason, his negotiation team was willing to pick up the intensity of the talks.

The UK is due to be fully withdrawn from the EU by March 29, 2019, exactly two years after May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — the official mechanism to secede from the supranational organisation.

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