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Montevideo, October 20th 2017 - 17:48 UTC

UK top ex diplomat says cabinet divided on Brexit and government has still to put forward a clear position

Monday, August 7th 2017 - 07:13 UTC
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Sir Simon, who now advises businesses on Brexit, said he was concerned the UK had not put forward a clear position. Sir Simon, who now advises businesses on Brexit, said he was concerned the UK had not put forward a clear position.

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.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour, 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.”

“I think 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,” he added.

He called on the government to publish further details about its views on issues, including future customs arrangements and the Northern Irish border in the coming weeks.

“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.”

Last month, Brexit Secretary David Davis said he was confident negotiations would continue as planned after reports Brussels may delay trade talks because of a lack of progress on the “divorce” settlement.

However a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU last month said negotiators had already made “good progress on a number of issues”.

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