BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU has yet to reach a confirmed agreement with Britain on the "Brexit bill," diplomats and EU officials said on Tuesday, adding that some in Brussels were concerned that Progress in an agreement in cash other matters.
"Not yet we have arrived, "Michel Barnier, EU Brexit negotiator told Reuters in Berlin when asked about the British newspaper's reports that his team had widely accepted an offer that reports put in the order of 50 billion euros ($ 60 billion).
Britain wants to start negotiations on trade terms that will be established once it leaves the EU in 2019, but Brussels has first demanded to resolve three issues: resolve its bill, guarantee the rights of expatriates and explain how the EU -UK land border will operate in Ireland.
Work continued on all three issues, Barnier said and hoped to be able to tell EU leaders at a summit in two weeks that "sufficient progress" had been made to start negotiations on a future trade pact.
British Prime Minister Theresa May received an "absolute deadline" on Monday, when she will meet with Barnier and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels to offer better deals in all three areas so that EU leaders approved at the summit of December 14-15.
Several EU diplomats told Reuters that Britain had finally promised verbally in recent days to pay part of the EU budget spending after its departure, which would cover much of what the Union has been demanding . But they stressed that this was short of a confirmed agreement.
"Agreement or agreement is not the words I would use," said one envoy, warning that a collapse in the talks was still possible.
"The United Kingdom is moving," said another. "Finally, at hour 11, we seem to have some traction and positive exchanges in the financial talks, but we are still badyzing the problems line by line to explore the movement and potential space."
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a prominent advocate of Brexit, said earlier this year that London would not pay anything as the 60 billion euros estimated by the EU was necessary, he told Reuters during an EU-EU summit. Africa in Côte d'Ivoire that hoped that the offer of Great Britain "took to the ship of the rocks" and it launched commercial conversations.
But some EU governments are worried that London may push harder on the other two issues. Brussels wants the EU court to influence the rights in Britain of EU residents who remain after Brexit, and wants to know how London plans to avoid a hard customs border with Ireland, a member of the EU, which could disrupt peace in Northern Ireland.
"When now it seems that we are making progress in money, other problems are becoming more difficult than before," said a third EU diplomat, naming issues of "sovereignty" over citizens' rights and the border as now more difficult to decipher that a month ago.
There was concern, he added, that Britain was "trying to put aside the Irish concerns by moving the money", saying that a split in this could still scuttle any agreement on trade negotiations next month.
British and EU sources downplayed reports that negotiators had discussed hard numbers about the agreement. Both parties have always said that a final figure will depend on future variables and that their initial interest was to agree on a "methodology".
However, EU diplomats said that May's previous commitment to maintain contributions during a two-year transition period after Brexit, valued at around 20 billion euros or more, was added to the new offers to pay future amounts committed during the 46 years of The membership of the United Kingdom could cover a large part of the 60 billion euros that they wanted.
Sources from the British government, which wants any offer on its part to unlock a Brussels pledge to open trade talks in the new year, said it had not offered numbers to the EU, only commitments to be covered.
Criticism among supporters of the hardline Brexit of such payments has been somewhat more moderate in recent weeks and British media reported that May had won the backing of his cabinet to pay more.
"It's a dazzling sum if it's 55 billion," said Andrew Bridgen, a May Conservative lawmaker who, unlike the prime minister, campaigned for Brexit in last year's vote. "But as we know, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
"It depends on what we get in terms of a commercial agreement."
EU officials say that Brussels is willing to work with May to mbadage the figures, which ultimately depend on future developments, to help her win support at home.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London and Andrea Shalal and Reinhard Becker in Berlin and Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Written by Alastair Macdonald; Peter Graff edition