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August 22, 2017

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UK urges goods and services as one in talks

BRITAIN urged the European Union yesterday not to separate goods from their services in Brexit talks, further outlining its negotiating stance to try to nudge discussions forward to a second phase on future relations.

In two position papers — one on goods and the other on confidentiality — the government set out more proposals that it said would help “give businesses and consumers certainty and confidence” after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Much of what it proposed was in line with the EU’s own policy document published earlier this year. But in one departure, Britain’s paper said the provision of goods and services should be treated as one, citing the example of a maintenance contract that comes with the sale of an elevator.

“These papers will help give businesses and consumers certainty and confidence in the UK’s status as an economic powerhouse after we have left the EU,” Brexit minister David Davis said in a statement.

“They also show that as we enter the third round of negotiations, it is clear that our separation from the EU and future relationship are inextricably linked ... and (we) are ready to begin a formal dialog on this and other issues.”

John Foster, director of campaigns at business lobby CBI, called the government’s position “a significant improvement upon the EU’s current proposal”, but said the only way to offer companies certainty was to agree interim arrangements.

“The simplest way to achieve that is for the UK to stay in the single market and a customs union until a comprehensive new deal is in force,” Foster said in a statement demanding something Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out.

After a slow start to negotiations to unravel more than 40 years of union, Britain hopes that by publishing policy papers and proposals for future relations it can persuade the EU to move beyond talk of a divorce settlement.

But EU officials have asked whether there has been “sufficient progress” in the first stage of talks on the rights of expatriates, Britain’s border with EU member Ireland and a financial settlement before moving on.


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