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EU’s Juncker warns Britain to first agree with divorce terms

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said Britain must first agree with its divorce terms before any discussions begin on post-Brexit ties.

“We need to be crystal clear that we will begin no negotiations on the new economic and trade relationship between the UK and the EU before all these questions are resolved …that is the divorce between the EU and the UK,” Juncker said on Tuesday at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.

He said, “We can’t mix things up” and insisted “first resolve the past before imagining the future.”

“We need UK papers that are clear in order to have constructive negotiations and the sooner we remove the ambiguity, the sooner we will be in a position to discuss the future relationship and the transitional period,” Juncker said on the second day of the third round of Brexit talks.

The comments followed the criticism of the European Union’s Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier who on Monday warned Britain to start “negotiating seriously.”

Juncker said there has to be “sufficient progress” in negotiations over the rights of EU citizens, Northern Ireland’s border and the exit bill before any post-Brexit arrangements.

Meanwhile, David Davis, the UK’s Brexit secretary defended his government’s papers as “products of hard work and detailed thinking,” adding that progress required imagination and flexibility from both sides.

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.

Juncker is set to meet UK’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair in Brussels this week while Brexit talks are still ongoing.

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.

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