The fourth round of Brexit talks wrapped up yesterday (28 September) without any major breakthrough. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that it could still be months before both sides can actually proceed to discuss trade. His British counterpart David Davis agreed, saying that “it’ll take weeks or possibly even months until we can say there has been sufficient progress”. Progress has so far been made mostly on citizen rights and EU demands that the UK uphold budget pledges it has made as a member of the bloc.
Mr. Barnier said at the beginning of negotiations in June that he hoped to say by October that enough progress had been made to advance talks. His comments regarding the subsequent trade negotiations, however, raised concern after what was otherwise a week of progress. After British Prime Minister Theresa May had called for a transition period of two years after Brexit in which the UK would continue paying to the EU budget in 2019 and 2020 in return for keeping access to EU markets as well as keeping the rights of EU nationals living in the UK at the current level, Mr. Davis said that his negotiating team had this week laid out details of how a transition period could work in reality.
Mr. Barnier also said that now was not the time to specify any payments to the EU beyond that point, adding that for negotiations to progress, London must agree to stand by all its past spending commitments, which Brussels has put at upward of €60 billion. Britain’s 2019 and 2020 commitments are likely to end up at being around €20 billion, roughly two years of budget payments.