LONDON: The EU is to begin preparing for its post-Brexit trade negotiations with the UK, while refusing to discuss the matter with the British government.
An internal draft document seen by the BBC suggests the 27 European Union countries should discuss trade among themselves while officials in Brussels prepare the details.
The draft text could yet be revised.
It comes as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there was “deadlock” over the UK’s Brexit bill.
As the fifth round of talks ended in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Barnier said there had not been enough progress to move to the next stage of post-Brexit trade talks, but added that he hoped for “decisive progress” by the time of the December summit of the European Council.
The draft paper submitted to the 27 EU states by European Council president Donald Tusk, suggests free trade talks could open in December – should Prime Minister Theresa May improve her offer on what the UK pays when it leaves.
The BBC’s Europe correspondent Adam Fleming said the paper has been described as an “opening to the UK” to encourage the government to reach a deal with the EU.
The document calls for talks – about a transition period and the future relationship – to move to the next phase “as soon as possible”.
The draft conclusions – to be put to EU leaders next Friday – also call for more concessions from the UK on its financial obligations and the rights of European nationals who wish to stay after Brexit.