BRUSSELS • EU negotiator Michel Barnier stuck to a hard line at the end of the second round of Brexit talks, refusing to offer concessions and telling his British counterpart David Davis that he still wanted more clarity on the UK's position.
"The first round was about organisation, the second round about presentation, the third round must be about clarification," Mr Barnier told reporters in Brussels yesterday.
Four days of talks in the Belgian capital have succeeded mainly in establishing the areas where the European Union wants more detail or movement from the United Kingdom, including how European nationals living in the UK will be protected after Brexit, what Britain will pay to leave, and how to maintain the current border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The clock is ticking until Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019, but the UK cannot begin talks on the free trade agreement it wants with the EU after Brexit until "sufficient progress" has been made on the issues discussed this week.
The next round of talks will be held at the end of next month.
Both sides want to move to the next stage and open those trade talks when EU leaders hold a summit in Brussels in October. If no deal is reached, Britain will crash out of the EU with no preferential access to the single market, meaning that tariffs will be imposed as with any third country.
Brexit Secretary David Davis put a positive spin on the week in the joint press conference. "I'm encouraged with the progress we've made in understanding each other's positions," he said. "Getting to a solution will require flexibility on both sides."
Mr Barnier, though, suggested he did not feel the moment had yet arrived for him to give any ground. "The UK decided to leave the EU... I know one has to compromise in negotiations but we are not there yet."
Meanwhile, Britain's Trade Secretary Liam Fox rejected the idea that it would have to reach a deal with the EU. "We don't want to have no deal, it's much better we have a deal," he said. "We can of course survive with no deal."