EU lawmakers say insufficient progress in Brexit talks

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The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed Tuesday a motion saying Brexit talks had not made enough progress to begin the next phase, dealing a fresh blow to London's hopes of moving negotiations on to trade.

MEPs approved by 557 votes to 92 against with 29 abstentions a motion urging EU leaders to postpone a decision on whether enough has been achieved in talks in order to start discussing a future relationship, at their next summit starting on October 19.

With all the major groupings in the European Parliament backing the non-binding resolution, the result of Tuesday's vote was a foregone conclusion.

Earlier, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs that while British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech in Florence last month had improved the mood in talks, "serious differences" remained on Britain's divorce bill, the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and the fate of Northern Ireland.

Barnier told the parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, that May's speech had been "translated into negotiating positions" by her negotiating team led by Brexit minister David Davis.

But he warned of significant differences, in particular on how much Britain must pay as it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

And he rejected accusations by eurosceptic British MEPs that the EU was trying to hold Britain to ransom in the talks.

"There is no ransom, no exit bill, there is only the fact that when you decide to leave we ask you to settle your accounts -- no more, no less than to pay what you agreed," Barnier said.

© 2017 AFP

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