UK government ministers are to publish new papers setting out their aims for Brexit talks. Fourteen months after the referendum, there has been little progress in talks on the terms for the UK's exit from the bloc.
Last month, European Union officials trying to negotiate with the UK over Britain's departure from the bloc complained that progress was difficult because of Britain's unacceptable demands and a lack of any position on many issues.
The UK Department for Exiting the European Union said Sunday it hoped to persuade the 27 other EU nations to start negotiating a "deep and special" future relationship to include a free trade deal between Britain and the EU.
But Brussels negotiators have insisted there are three issues to be sorted before a new relationship can be discussed. The first is how much money the UK will have to pay to leave the bloc, the second addresses whether security checks and customs duties will be imposed at the Irish border and the third deals with the status of EU nationals living in the UK.
Estimates of how much Britain will have to pay to fulfill its obligations from the period of its membership until March 2019 are in the tens of billions of euros range but estimates vary widely among EU and UK politicians and economists.
"Businesses and citizens in the UK and EU want to see the talks progress and move towards discussing a deal that works for both sides," the department said in a statement. "We've been crystal clear that issues around our withdrawal and our future partnership are inextricably linked, and the negotiations so far have reinforced that view," a source in Britain's Brexit department told UK newspapers and news agencies.
The announcement appeared to be an attempt to mask over an apparent lack of unity within the ruling Conservative party on how to proceed with the Brexit.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the remain-backing Finance Minister Philip Hammond and the Eurosceptic Trade Minister Liam Fox said Britain would leave the EU in March 2019, there would be a short "interim period" to smooth the transition during which Britain would not be party to EU treaties and after that Britain would become fully independent.
The UK would seek a close partnership with Europe on "security, trade and commerce" the ministers wrote. However, there was no indication as to the length of the transition and the overall costs.
Next meeting, new papers
Brexit Secretary David Davis is to hold a third round of talks with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels at the end of the month. Barnier has expressed concern that the first two rounds have failed to produce clarity on the key issues and that there was "a clock ticking" towardd the date in 2019 when Britain would be out of the bloc.
The UK government said it was preparing several papers, including plans for a new customs arrangement and for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The British ministers also promised a series of papers on their ideas for a "Future Partnership" with the EU to be presented in the run-up to October's European Council.
jm/sms (Reuters, AP)