United Kingdom tries to counter claims it's unprepared for Brexit talks

Frederick Owens
August 13, 2017

In a joint "Sunday Telegraph" article, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond and global trade minister Liam Fox the two key ministers believed to be on opposing ends of Britain's future outside the EU - also said that the UK will not remain in the customs union during the transitional period.

The disclosure comes as Britain's Brexit secretary David Davis prepares to embark on a third round of talks with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in the Belgian capital at the end of August.

Officials said the papers would show the British government was ready to "broaden out" the negotiations and move forward towards a deal that worked for both sides.

Mr Barnier is reported to have warned European Union ambassadors that the first two rounds had failed to produce sufficient clarity on the opening issues of the Irish Border, the rights of European Union citizens in the United Kingdom, and the UK's "divorce bill".

"We've been crystal clear that issues around our withdrawal and our future partnership are inextricably linked, and the negotiations so far have reinforced that view".

The decision to announce the publication of papers on its plans indicates Britain's desire to counter criticism from Brussels about its approach to the talks.

A British paper focused on "issues unique to Northern Ireland and Ireland" is expected ahead of the talks, but no further details of the proposal were provided on Sunday. The Brexit department declined to comment on the story.

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The British government has said it will give more details about its policies on Brexit next week.

Other papers will address the availability of goods for the European Union and Britain and access to official documents after London has exited the bloc.

They said the UK's borders "must continue to operate smoothly", that goods bought on the Internet "must still cross borders", and "businesses must still be able to supply their customers across the EU" in the weeks and months after Brexit.

Eager to push talks past the opening divorce issues and on to the future trading and legal ties to the bloc, Britain also promised a series of "Future Partnership" papers in the run-up to October's European Council.

Writing in the Observer newspaper Miliband, foreign minister under a Labour government between 2007 and 2010, called Brexit an "unparalleled act of economic self-harm" and said there should be another public vote once the final terms of Britain's exit are known.

Prime Minister Theresa May will hope the intervention of the two ministers will cool temperatures in the Tory ranks amid divisions over Brexit and speculation of a possible leadership challenge when MPs return to Westminster in September.

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