Mr Davis left the latest round of talks with the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier after an hour-long meeting in Brussels on Monday. This provoked criticism back in the UK, with opposition parties noting the talks are due to last until Thursday. An image of Mr Davis sat at a table with his EU counterpart with no papers also sparked claims Britain was unprepared.
But EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: “We do not consider this as a problem and we’re not concerned about it. “Chief negotiators do not have to be present all the time, these are well-structured talks over a week, so work is ongoing and we do not feel concerned about this.”However, Mr Schinas refused to comment on suggestions officials are frustrated by the UK side’s perceived lack of preparation. He also declined to answer questions on whether Britain had come up with counter proposals in response to Mr Barnier’s demands for a so-called “divorce bill” for leaving the EU.
The Commission will not be giving an assessment of the progress of the negotiations until Thursday, when Mr Davis is set to return for further talks and a news conference. “In my notion of the English language an assessment covers what’s positive and what’s not positive, so stay tuned,” Mr Schinas said. The spokesman said Britain’s 98 negotiators had been welcomed to Brussels and that the Commission has a team of “very good divorce lawyers”. “We don’t feel that we have been invaded, we have welcomed our negotiating partners in Article 50 negotiations yesterday and talks are ongoing as we speak,” he said.
It is understood Britain will not set out a position paper on the “divorce bill” until it is ready. It is believed to be using the talks to scrutinise the EU’s position in detail and respond to each of Brussels’ demands – including challenging some. Negotiators are believed to have found common ground on citizens’ rights despite the EU’s view that Britain’s offer is below expectations and that there must be a role for the European Court of Justice. The two sides are focusing on trying to find out where their positions are similar and most of the sessions, which are covering the financial settlement, citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and separation issues including Europe’s civil nuclear regulator Euratom, overran. Mr Davis has been in close touch with the UK team before he returns to Brussels on Thursday.