UK needs 'more serious engagement with financial consequences of Brexit', says EU

The European Parliament's chief Brexit coordinator has criticised British calls for "flexibility" in the exit talks, claiming the EU bent over backwards to please Britain for years.

Guy Verhofstadt said the bloc made substantial additional exceptions during David Cameron's talks ahead of last year's referendum, adding that the UK has always "enjoyed a bespoke form of membership".

In an article for the Daily Telegraph in England, he lambasted comments made in the same paper by former Tory leader Lord Hague who he said "implied that the EU forced the UK out by refusing to agree to every one of Mr Cameron's renegotiation requests".

Mr Verhofstadt wrote: "I was in the room at the time of the renegotiation and substantial additional exceptions were offered - a new special status of EU membership, with an opt-out from the core principle of "ever closer union" and an emergency brake on benefits for EU workers.

"I even offered to work with the UK to develop a new form of associate EU membership, but UK ministers rejected it, as they argued that it would mean losing the UK's seat at the top table.

"If this is not showing flexibility, I do not know what is."

Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis said the UK's approach to the negotiations had been "substantially more flexible and pragmatic than that of the EU" at the end of the third round of talks on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, he said getting a deal would require "flexibility and imagination from both sides".

The former prime minister of Belgium argued that Britain would need to provide a "more serious engagement with the financial consequences of Brexit and the other divorce issues" to "unlock" discussions about its future with the EU.

"Given the current pace of talks, there is a real danger that sufficient progress will not be made by October."

Mr Verhofstadt said: "As the costs of Brexit become clearer, I have no doubt the hardliners who promised the British people utopia will once again seek to blame Brussels for a lack of progress in the talks.

"But is a further poisoning of the atmosphere really in Britain's interest? Our continued relationship is too important for our citizens and our firms to be jeopardised by dramatic political gestures.

"A divorce is never easy, but a strong future partnership is in the best interest of us all."


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