Britain says reaching limit of first stage of Brexit talks

British Secretary of State for Brexit David Davis departs 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting in central London, Britain, on Oct 17, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) - Britain and the European Union are "reaching the limits of what we can achieve" in divorce talks and should move on to the next stage of negotiations, Brexit minister David Davis said on Tuesday (Oct 17).

He urged EU leaders meeting at a summit later this week to "recognise the progress made" and give their chief negotiator Michel Barnier a mandate to discuss Britain's future relationship with the bloc.

"We must be able to talk about the future. We all have to recognise that we're reaching the limits of what we can achieve without consideration of the future relationship," Mr Davis told the House of Commons.

He added: "At the European Council later this week, I hope the leaders of the 27 will recognise the progress made and provide Michel Barnier with a mandate to build on the momentum and spirit of cooperation we now have."

Mr Davis and Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Brussels on Monday (Oct 16) evening for dinner with Barnier and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

In a joint statement issued afterwards, Mrs May and Mr Juncker said they agreed to "accelerate" efforts for a deal.

Mrs May's spokesman said on Tuesday (Oct 17) that the meeting was "productive, it was a friendly discussion" and the pair "agreed on the need to make swift progress".

During the summit in Brussels on Thursday (Oct 19) and Friday (Oct 20), EU leaders are due to decide if "sufficient progress" has been made in divorce talks to move the discussions onto the future trading relationship.

The EU side has indicated they will postpone their decision to a summit in December as the talks are deadlocked, particularly over Britain's financial settlement.

The EU has also demanded progress on the rights of three million European citizens in Britain, and on the future of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Updating MPs on the progress in Brexit talks, Mr Davis said progress was being made on citizens rights, but claimed Britain's proposals "go further" than those made by Brussels.

He warned that specific financial commitments "can only come later", and said that on the Irish border issue, talks had progressed "possibly as much as we can".

Mr Davis also denied his government was talking up the prospect of leaving the EU in 2019 without a deal in place.

While repeating that Britain was preparing for all eventualities, he said: "We are seeking to get a deal. That is by far and away the best option."

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