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UK to urge EU to focus on future ties: Source

The United Kingdom will call on the European Union to help focus the third round of Brexit talks on future relations rather than on a divorce agreement.

Brexit minister David Davis will urge the bloc to show more flexibility at the start of negotiations with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.

“Now, both sides must be flexible and willing to compromise when it comes to solving areas where we disagree,” a government source said. “As the EU itself has said, the clock is ticking so neither side should drag its feet.”

The source said that London would point to the papers it has published during the last two weeks on both the future ties and the divorce to indicate how officials have been working “diligently to inform the negotiations”.

Britain has published papers on a range of issues from future customs arrangements to data, transcending a brief set by the EU to first work on three priority areas, which include the rights of expatriates, Britain’s border with EU state Ireland and a financial settlement.

British officials say they cannot make progress on those areas without considering future ties, contending that what happens at the border with Northern Ireland is dependent upon the kind of customs arrangement agreed with the bloc.

However, the EU has insisted that “sufficient progress” is needed in those areas before they can start any discussion about the future relationship.

The UK formally triggered the Brexit process on March 29 and divorce negotiations officially began on June 19 a year after Britain’s historic referendum vote to leave the 28-member European bloc.

Opening rounds of Brexit talks with the EU have made little progress, with European negotiators demanding greater clarity from the UK delegation.

During their second round of talks held in July, the EU and UK Brexit teams failed to reach an agreement on 22 of the 44 issues under negotiation.

Experts have warned it will be extremely difficult to negotiate a new UK-EU free trade agreement before Brexit, particularly as the EU has so far refused even to start trade discussions.

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