EU says progress made in Brexit negotiations but more work needed
The Brexit negotiations have made "some progress" but more work is needed on specific issues, the EU's chief negotiator has said.
Following the latest round of talks in Brussels, Michel Barnier said they still had to see "sufficient progress" on the arrangements for Britain's withdrawal before they could move to the second phase of negotiations.
"We are not asking the UK for concessions, nor are we planning to make any concessions ourselves," he told a joint news conference with Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Mr Barnier said the sixth round of talks had largely involved "deepening discussions, clarification and technical work".
He said his "top priority" was to secure sufficient progress on the issues of citizens' rights, the Irish border and Britain's "divorce bill" by the time of the next EU summit in December.
"Only sufficient progress - that is to say sincere and real progress - on the three main key issues of these negotiations will enable the triggering of the of second phase of our negotiation," he said.
Mr Barnier indicated that he would need further clarification from the UK on its positions within two weeks to be able to recommend to European leaders that "sufficient progress" has been made at December's summit.
Mr Davis said the negotiations had narrowed to "a few outstanding - albeit important - issues".
He said: "Now is the time for both sides to move together to seek solutions.
"This is a serious business. If we are to find a way forward it will require flexibility and pragmatism from both sides.
"This is now about moving into the political discussions that will enable both of us to move forward together.
"We must now look ahead to moving our discussions on to our future relationship.
"For this to happen, both parties need to build confidence in both the process and indeed in the shared outcome."
The UK was "ready and willing" to engage with Brussels "as often and as quickly as needed" ahead of the December 14-15 summit, he said.
"But we need to see flexibility, imagination and willingness to make progress on both sides if these negotiations are to succeed and we are able to realise our new deep and special partnership."
Mr Barnier said the UK side had offered some "useful clarification" on citizens' rights, but more work was needed on a number of issues including the role of the European Court of Justice.
On Ireland, he said "technical and regulatory solutions" had to be found to prevent the re-imposition of a "hard border" between the north and the Republic while preserving the integrity of the single market.
On the financial settlement, Mr Barnier said the sides needed to establish an "objective interpretation" of Theresa May's undertaking in her Florence speech that no EU member state would lose out as a result of Britain's withdrawal.
"This is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December," he said. "It is just a matter of settling accounts as in any separation."
Mr Barnier refused to be drawn on speculation that Brussels was concerned that Mrs May's government could collapse following recent upheaval which has seen two Cabinet minsters quit, although he admitted the situation was being watched closely.
"I am not going to comment on the internal political situation in the United Kingdom," he said. "We are, of course, watching it very closely."
He added that the issues raised in the first stage of talks would not need to be finalised to move on to talks on the future relationship, but "sincere" progress was needed.
"We are not at the stage of settling everything in the nitty gritty, but we want sufficient progress," Mr Barnier said. "We want sincere and real progress."
Mr Davis said there was "no doubt that we have made, and continue to make - including this round - significant progress across a whole range of issues".
"That will continue at pace between now and December and I hope it will lead to sufficient progress."