“To be honest I’m concerned. Time passes quickly… We must start negotiating seriously,” Barnier said as he greeted his British counterpart David Davis at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.
Barnier, a former French foreign minister and EU commissioner, sharply warned his counterpart that a recent flurry of British position papers has failed to resolve differences.
“The sooner we remove the ambiguity, the sooner we will be in position to discuss the future relationship and a transitional period,” Barnier said.
So far, the two sides have failed to reach a meaningful agreement on the issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill.
The EU insists that the UK should address these areas before proceeding to other matters.
Davis defended his government’s papers as “products of hard work and detailed thinking,” adding that progress required imagination and flexibility from both sides.
“We want to lock in the points where we agree, unpick the areas where we disagree, and make further progress on a range of issues,” he said.
Last week Barnier said that the new round of talks would revolve around an “orderly withdrawal.”
European officials are growing frustrated with what they call the “intra-UK debate” on what the British position should be in the talks.
The current round of talks will last for three days.
There will be two more rounds of negotiations in September and October before March 2019 when the Brexit deadline will be due.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has openly stated that she would take the country out of the EU even if she fails to strike a deal with the bloc, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has asked for a softer approach that involves retaining Britain’s access to the EU’s tariff-free single market.