EU’s Barnier urges UK to start ‘negotiating seriously’

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis (L) and European Union Chief Negotiator in charge of Brexit negotiations with Britain Michel Barnier (R) address media representatives at the European Union Commission Headquarters in Brussels on August 28, 2017. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier today warned Britain to start “negotiating seriously” as London and Brussels kicked off a third round of tense Brexit talks./ AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday warned Britain to start “negotiating seriously” as London and Brussels kicked off a third round of tense Brexit talks.

“To be honest I’m concerned. Time passes quickly… We must start negotiating seriously,” Barnier said as he greeted his British counterpart David Davis at the headquarters of the European Commission.

Barnier, a former French foreign minister and EU commissioner, sharply warned his counterpart that a recent flurry of British position papers fell short of clearing up differences.

“The sooner we remove the ambiguity, the sooner we will be in position to discuss the future relationship and a transitional period,” Barnier said in reference to the papers.

Both sides are still sharply divided over what must be agreed first — London’s future relationship with the bloc or the costly divorce settlement.

The European Union insists on “sufficient progress” in three key areas — EU citizen rights, Northern Ireland’s border and the exit bill — before it will turn to post-Brexit arrangements.

Davis firmly defended his government’s efforts to explain its position saying they were “products of the hard work and detailed thinking.”

They form the basis of “what I hope will be a constructive week of talks between the European Commission and the UK,” he said.

“We want to lock in the points where we agree, unpick the areas where we disagree, and make further progress on a range of issues,” Davis said.

Britain is on a countdown to leave the EU by the end of March 2019, following last year’s shock referendum vote.

To avert a messy exit, British and EU officials have agreed to meet each month for four days in Brussels leading up to a an October review which will decide the next step.

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