BRUSSELS (AP) — For the second day in a row, the European Union chastised Britain for being slow and unfocused in its approach to the Brexit divorce proceedings, which are entering their sixth month with precious little to show for them.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday that after assessing the latest batch of position papers from London, "None of them give me any real satisfaction. So there are many questions that remain to be resolved."
Britain trigged the two-year negotiating window on March 29, then surprisingly called a snap election in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her overall majority. Talks effectively only started in June.
The third round of high-level talks is ongoing this week and Juncker reinforced the comments of his chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday that the May's government is too slow out of the blocks and that key separation issues need to be settled before both sides can assess a future trade and political relationship. Britain is keen to have both in lockstep.
While British negotiator David Davis called for "flexibility and imagination" to move on all issues, Juncker said in some of his clearest comments so far, that "it must be made ultra-clear that we will not undertake any negotiation on the continuation of events" before the key divorce issues are settled first.
Juncker said that "we can't mix things up" and insisted "first resolve the past before imagining the future."
The EU wants to discuss the rights of citizens residing in each other's areas after the breakup, the situation on the Irish border and the outstanding bill Britain still has to pay before things can move on. There has been no decisive breakthrough on any of them so far.
The 27 other EU nations have said they will have to judge whether there is "sufficient progress" on those separation issues before talks on a future trade and political relationship can start.
Both sides are facing a March 2019 deadline to seal a deal to disentangle Britain from the EU and to broker the terms of their post-split relationship. The bulk of the negotiations need to wrap up in the fall of next year to allow for formal ratification by both sides.
Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.