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Britain wants talks with EU to go to next phase as ministers unite

Britain said yesterday that it wants talks with the EU to move on to the next phase, as it set out details of the future relationship it envisages with the bloc and senior ministers presented a united approach to negotiations.

Britain is keen to start talking about its post-Brexit relationship with Europe, wary of the need to reassure anxious businesses, citizens and investors. But Brussels has insisted that progress must be made on divorce arrangements first.

“We need to get on with negotiating the bigger issues around our future partnership to ensure we get a deal that delivers a strong UK and EU,” Brexit minister David Davis said in a statement.

Britain’s call to move forward with Brexit talks came as finance minister Philip Hammond and trade minister Liam Fox presented a united front that there should be a time-limited transition period - signaling a truce between rival factions in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet.

Davis’s Brexit department said it was preparing to publish several papers, including plans for a new customs arrangement and a proposal on how to resolve the difficulties of a non-physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“We’ve been crystal clear that issues around our withdrawal and our future partnership are inextricably linked,” a source in Britain’s Brexit department said.

“These papers show we are ready to broaden out the negotiations.”

Talks so far have focused on how much Britain should pay to leave the European Union, what rights British and EU citizens will have, and how to manage a land border to the bloc in Ireland. The two sides will be looking for a solution to those issues at the next round of talks due at the end of this month.

The decision to announce the publication of papers on its plans shows Britain’s desire to rebuff criticism from Brussels about its slant to the talks.

In July, EU officials said progress was difficult not because Britain had unacceptable demands, but because it had no position at all on many issues. EU negotiators have warned that an already-tight timetable could be delayed ahead of a scheduled March 2019 exit.

A British paper focused on “issues unique to Northern Ireland and Ireland” is expected ahead of the talks, but no further details of the proposal were provided yesterday.

The Sunday Telegraph said Britain was seeking a “Schengen area” between Britain and Ireland, which would allow free movement of people and a “light-touch customs regime” across the border of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Brexit department declined to comment on the story.

The report, which cited an unnamed source in the department, said Irish citizens would be able to work freely in the UK, and British citizens would work freely in Ireland.

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