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EU slams lack of Brexit progress, delays future trade talks

The European Union has criticized the British government for the lack of progress in Brexit talks, voting to delay the next phase of negotiations on a future trade relationship with the United Kingdom.

Senior leaders in Brussels said on Tuesday that the talks regarding Britain’s exit from the EU had failed to make “sufficient progress” to justify discussing a post-Brexit free trade relationship with London.

Despite four rounds of talks, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said there was a lack of progress on three key issues necessary to be solved before talks can proceed, including the financial settlement, the future rights of EU citizens and the Irish border.

“We have not yet made the sufficient progress needed,” Juncker said. “Until now, I can’t say that we are ready to enter the second phase of the negotiations.”

Barnier also told the EU legislature that, “There are still serious divergences, in particular on the financial settlement.”

European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt (L) talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (C) and European Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier before a debate on the progress of the Brexit talks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, October 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Later in the day, the European Parliament slammed Britain’s confused stance on the divorce talks and overwhelmingly passed a motion that called on EU leaders to postpone making a decision about moving to trade talks with Britain due at their October 19-20 summit.

By 557 votes to 92, the parliament urged EU leaders to delay making a decision on that progress “unless there is a major breakthrough in line with this resolution in all three areas during the fifth negotiation round.”

London has offered a number of concessions in Brexit talks; however, Brussels has warned that differences remain, particularly on the three key points. The fifth round of Brexit talks is scheduled to start in Brussels on Monday.

‘Please sack Johnson!’

Also on Tuesday, Manfred Weber, the head of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which is the European Parliament’s largest faction, said negotiations should not be held up due to British domestic politics and the splits in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet.

Weber said May’s cabinet in-fighting was putting the Brexit deal at risk and called on the British premier to get rid of her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, for undermining her on a series of Brexit issues.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers a speech on the third day of the Conservative Party annual conference, at the Manchester Central Convention Center on October 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

“The top question I think for the moment is: Who shall I call in London? Who speaks for the government?” Weber asked.

“Please sack Johnson, because we need a clear answer on who is responsible for the British position,” he added. “Theresa May, please don’t put the party first – put please Britain first, put please the citizens first.”

The European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt also expressed concern about the rift in the British government, saying, “I’m really worried about the lack of clarity and disunity on the other side of the negotiation table.”

Last week, May made a speech in Florence, Italy, to encourage EU leaders to agree that “sufficient progress” has been made on the withdrawal for discussions to turn to trade.

Nearly 52 percent of Britons opted to leave the bloc during the EU referendum in June last year. The United Kingdom formally triggered the Brexit process on March 29 and divorce negotiations officially began on June 19.

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