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Saturday , 19 January 2019
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UK’s Brexit negotiations not begun well

The UK’s Brexit negotiations have not begun well amid “differences” inside the cabinet, a former head of the diplomatic service has said.

Sir Simon Fraser, chief mandarin at the Foreign Office until 2015, said the UK side had been “a bit absent” from formal negotiations in Brussels.

Sir Simon, who now advises businesses on Brexit, said he was concerned the UK had not put forward a clear position.

The government is expected to publish “position papers” on key issues soon.

Sir Simon said he feared divisions within the cabinet were preventing the government from presenting a united front.

“The negotiations have only just begun, I don’t think they have begun particularly promisingly, frankly, on the British side,” he said.

“We haven’t put forward a lot because, as we know, there are differences within the cabinet about the sort of Brexit that we are heading for and until those differences are further resolved I think it’s very difficult for us to have a clear position.”

He added: “So far, we haven’t put much on the table apart from something on the status of nationals, so we are a bit absent from the formal negotiation.

“I think we need to demonstrate that we are ready to engage on the substance so that people can understand what is really at stake here and what the options are.”

The Government is expected to publish further “position papers” setting out its views on future customs arrangements and the Northern Irish border from next week.

The European Union has insisted it will not discuss future trade until “substantial progress” has been made on the financial settlement, EU citizens and Northern Ireland.

Conservative MP Peter Bone laid bare the difficulties the Government faces, by arguing MPs are unlikely to accept a Brexit fee of £36bn – suggesting Brussels should be paying the UK instead.

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