It’s been nearly three months, and three rounds, since Brexit negotiations began, and the parties aren’t far from where they started. The European Union’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier closed the last round of negotiations on August 31 by announcing that neither side had made “any decisive progress” on any of the key issues surrounding the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the bloc. His British counterpart, David Davis, was only slightly more optimistic: “We’ve seen some concrete progress. … There remains some way to go.”
Expectations for the third round weren’t high from the start; Barnier opened the talks by admitting: “To be honest, I’m concerned.” The last round, like the one preceding it, aimed at reaching some sort of breakthrough on the three major divorce issues surrounding the U.K.’s exit from the bloc—issues, such as citizens’ rights, the U.K. financial settlement, and the fate of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, that the EU insists must be addressed before the parties can move on to discussing trade and their future relationship.
It’s a lofty goal, but one both sides anticipated they could reach by October. Now, the EU isn’t so sure. “The current state of progress means we are quite far from being able to say sufficient progress has taken place—not far enough for me to be able to say to the European council that we can start to discuss the future relationship,” Barnier said.