'Clock is ticking' on Brexit negotiations, says chief EU negotiator Barnier
(ShareCast News) - Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator for the EU, told the UK on Wednesday that the "clock is ticking" to reach an agreement, and reiterated that financial obligations known as the 'divorce bill' will need to be paid.
At a press conference in Brussels, Barnier responded to comments made by foreign secretary Boris Johnson on Tuesday where he said EU leaders can 'go whistle' for Britain to pay any exit fees.
Talks between the negotiating teams from London and Brussels have seemingly hit a sticking point over the amount of compensation Britain should pay to leave the bloc, with calculations varying between €100bn (£89bn) and €25bn.
"I'm not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking," Barnier said, when asked by a reporter if he could whistle a tune.
"It is indispensable that the UK recognises the existence of financial obligations that arise simply from the period during which it was a member of the EU," he added.
Barnier rejected the idea put across by many politicians in the UK that the EU was holding it to ransom, but said it was simply a matter of "settling accounts", adding that he was not willing to move onto other points if the UK refused to accept its financial obligations.
The Frenchman also acknowledged that there were major differences between the two sides in relation the rights of citizens following the UK's departure from the bloc.
Theresa May recently made an offer of giving EU immigrants special resident status in the UK if they had lived in the country for five years or more, but European leaders have rejected the proposal.
"The British position does not allow those persons concerned to continue to live their lives as they do today," Barnier said. "We want EU citizens in Britain to have the same rights as British citizens who live in the EU."
Negotiating teams from both sides will come together again next week for a second round of talks in order to make further progress towards an exit agreement.
Furthermore, with Barnier saying the EU has published nine papers on its positions it needed a British response to each issue to move forward.
Theresa May's government will publishing three Brexit positions papers on Thursday, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said.