British Trade Minister Liam Fox said on Friday that Britain would not be blackmailed into agreeing to a Brexit divorce bill before moving talks onto a future trade agreement between the UK and the EU 27. His comments came a day after the UK’s Brexit minister David Davis and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier wound up the third round of negotiations in Brussels, after which Barnier said the two had made “no decisive progress” on the main points of discussion.
The EU maintains that before talks can proceed to the details of a post-Brexit trade pact between the two parties they must first reach an agreement on the issues of EU citizens’ rights, the Irish land border and the bill that Britain must pay to clear its accounts with the EU.
The sticking point on the so-called Brexit bill boils down to whether the UK should continue making payments to the EU budget after it leaves. The seven-year budget, which was signed off on by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013, ends in 2020 – one year after the UK is due to exit the bloc.
“EU taxpayers should not pay at 27 for the obligations undertaken at 28. This would not be fair,” Barnier said at a joint press conference. While Davis acknowledged that the UK has a “moral obligation” to pay he disputed the methodology used by the EU to calculate the final figure.
Limited progress was, however, made in the areas of citizens’ rights and the Irish border. It was agreed that British citizens living in the EU would retain the right to use the European Health Insurance Card when visiting another EU state. Some progress was also made on the mutual recognition of education and training qualifications. It was also agreed that EU citizens would retain the right to move freely between Ireland and the UK. Although EU citizens living in Ireland would not necessarily be permitted to work in the UK the agreement would ensure that Ireland continues to meet its EU Treaty obligations to allow for the free movement of EU citizens.
The next round of talks are scheduled to begin in mid-September.