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German minister scolds British PM for inaccurate portrayal of Brexit breakthrough

The German government urged British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday to remain honest in her public communication about the recent breakthrough in Brexit negotiations.

Germany‘s Europe Minister Michael Roth told press it was imperative that May truthfully adhered to the text of last week’s agreement in Brussels on the first stage of Britain’s departure from the bloc.

“One must appear and speak (in Brussels), just as one does in London,” Roth said.

The Europe Minister said he was “confused” about the difference in narratives presented by British policymakers during the negotiations in the European Union‘s de-facto capital on the one hand, and to domestic audiences on the other.

Roth’s comments were referring to a speech given by May in the British Houses of Parliament on Monday, in which she seemed to suggest that Britain’s payment of a “divorce bill” was still contingent on achieving a free trade agreement to govern future relations.

This assertion directly contradicts key passages of the agreement between the EU and Britain which state that the payment of a financial settlement will be enshrined in a legally-binding exit treaty regardless of the outcome of trade talks.

Based on the outlines of the methodology to calculate outstanding liabilities which have surfaced so far in European media, the bill presented to Britain as a consequence of its departure is estimated to amount to around 45 billion euros (53 billion U.S dollars).

Roth’s concern that Britain was backtracking on its commitments was shared by members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Wednesday.

Delegates in the assembly were particularly irked by a comment made by British Brexit secretary David Davis which likened the Brussels agreement to a “statement of intent” rather than a “legally-enforceable thing”.

In response, German MEP Manfred Weber called for the EU to send a clear signal to May to clarify her stance, while the European Parliament’s chief negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, warned that progress on the second stage of negotiations was only possible in an environment of trust.

The EU also reacted by hardening its stance on Brexit, with senior national officials effecting a change of draft guidelines on the next stage of talks which are scheduled to be agreed this week.

According to the new text cited by the Financial Times newspaper, discussion of the future relationship between the EU and Britain cannot begin before March.

The document further emphasizes that London will be fully bound by EU rules and regulations throughout a potential transition phase after 2019 without retaining any influence over their formulation.

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