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Talks on Brexit Slowed Over Trade, Border Issues


FILE - British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a media conference in Brussels, June 23, 2017. May's government is trying to negotiate a trade deal with the EU but Europe wants it to set terms for its leaving the group.

British and EU officials say they are “deadlocked” after four days of negotiations on Britain’s exit from Europe, known as “Brexit.”

The two sides appear to disagree on which parts of Brexit should be negotiated first.

EU officials unclear on the British negotiating position

EU officials say British negotiators are not clear about what they want. But, the British side says negotiating a trade deal should come before talks on terms for leaving the EU.

Another point of disagreement is the amount of money Britain will have to pay the EU when it leaves. Some estimates place the amount at $89 billion.

The EU is seeking the money for budget payments and to pay for projects and loans that were agreed to in 2013. That is before the referendum on June 23 of 2016 when Britons voted to leave the EU.

Michel Barnier is the chief EU negotiator for Brexit. He told reporters, “To be flexible you need two points, our point and their point. We need to know their position and then I can be flexible.”

The European parliament’s coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt said, “the other party is not responding.” Because of this, he said, it “is difficult to start a negotiation.”

Verhofstadt also released a video of himself talking about the difficulties of the negotiations on the social media network Twitter.

He tweeted, “I fear that some of the #Brexit hardliners don’t want to negotiate.”

Brexit and trade talks, which comes first?

The EU wants the two sides to make progress on an agreement for Britain to leave the group by October. The EU does not want trade talks to begin until this step is reached.

Experts say that the British side does not want to settle on a Brexit payment until they have secured a good free trade deal. The EU, however, has described the Brexit payment and future trade agreement as two separate issues.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “I think a good trade deal is not just about the UK, it is about what is good for businesses in what will be the 27 remaining states of the EU as well.”

May admitted that Britain would have to pay money to the EU on leaving the group. But trade remained the main issue, “I think it is in all our interest to move on to those trade talks and to get a good idea.”

Questions about border

Border policies are another issue that has slowed talks.

The two sides have made little progress on how Europeans will be treated under British law and other border issues. The sides must agree on the rights of more than two million European citizens and their families who are living and working in Britain. And an estimated 1.3 million Britons live in EU countries.

In addition, Britain must work out border issues with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. Ireland and Northern Ireland oppose harsh border policies fearing a renewal of the Irish conflict. Ireland also has threatened to veto trade negotiations until officials are satisfied with the border agreement.

Disagreement within Britain

Some former British officials have criticized the British governments negotiating strategy. They say it shows sharp disagreements between members of May’s cabinet and Conservative Party parliament ministers.

They disagree on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU single market and customs union. Such a move would make trade easier, but Britain would have no control over trade rules set by the EU after it leaves the group.

Finance minister Phil Hammond has the support of many top business leaders. He is trying to influence the Conservative Party away from a sharp break with Europe and its rules—what is being called a “hard Brexit.”

The public is growing more concerned about Brexit according to opinion studies because of increasingly bad economic news.

There also are concerns that Britain will lose many of the EU citizens who live and work in the country. The professional services company KPMG said in a study that about one million EU citizens, many who are highly educated, are planning to leave the country because of Brexit.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Jamie Dettmer reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

deadlocked –adj. unable to move forward,

flexible –adj. willing to change or do things differently

customs –n. the system of taxes and costs that a government seeks when goods come into the country from another country

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