Ex Foreign Office chief mandarin Sir Simon Fraser believes that Britain has not put forward a clear position in Brexit negotiations

Sir Simon, who now advises UK businesses on Brexit, has claimed that the UK is not off to a good start in Brexit negotiations, saying that their position is unclear.

He described the UK side as being ‘absent’ during talks and said that the transitional period after leaving must be planned for soon.

He believes that divides within the cabinet over what kind of Brexit deal to pursue are behind the delays, saying in BBC4’s Westminster Hour:

“The negotiations have only just begun, I don’t think they have begun particularly promisingly, frankly, on the British side.”

“We haven’t put forward a lot because, as we know, there are differences within the cabinet about the sort of Brexit that we are heading for and until those differences are further resolved I think it’s very difficult for us to have a clear position.”

The government is expected to publish ‘position papers’ soon, along with its proposals for the Northern Irish border.

‘Divorce bill’

One such issue on the table is the amount the UK will be expected to pay as a financial settlement after the Brexit negotiations.

The current EU budgetary period will finish in 2020, a year after the UK is set to officially leave the EU, leaving outstanding obligations to resolve.

A ‘divorce bill’ of £36 billion was rumoured, but a senior government source has since denied this.

The bill would pay for ongoing membership of programmes such as Horizon 2020 and pay for outlying liabilities such as pensions.

Conservative MP Peter Bone called the prospect of such a payment ‘bizarre’, but fellow Tory MP Kit Malthouse emphasised the importance of paying off obligations, saying:

“The principle of an ethical separation, where we do recognise some ongoing obligations so that this isn’t a sudden departure – we say ‘we want to make it as easy on you as it will be on us, so let’s reach an arrangement’ – I think that’s broadly accepted.”

The final figure has yet to be decided on.

 

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