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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, following the weekly cabinet meeting, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said during a visit to Berlin on Friday that Britain had still not clearly defined its positions on Brexit and that this was making negotiations with the EU-27 more difficult.
Answering questions from an audience in Berlin after a speech on the French government's reform drive, Philippe rejected a suggestion that other European countries were being "tough" on Britain and said it bore blame for difficulties in the talks.
"Our aim is not to be tough with the British. What is true is that these are difficult negotiations," Philippe said.
"And they are difficult, they have been made difficult, because the initial positions of British diplomats still need to be clearly defined to a certain extent," he added, before heading to the chancellery for a meeting with Germany's Angela Merkel.
Nearly three months into talks on the terms of Britain's departure from the European Union, the two sides have made little progress on the issues that Brussels wants resolved before talks on a future trading relationship begin.
These include expatriate citizens' rights, the Irish border and the bill that London should pay its EU partners to settle existing financial commitments.
Philippe said he regretted Britain's decision to leave the EU and, coming from Normandy, felt like he was among cousins when he travelled to the United Kingdom.
But he said it was important for the EU-27 and its lead negotiator, Frenchman Michel Barnier, to ensure that the interests of citizens on the continent were protected. For that, the bloc had to stick to its sequencing plan.
"It is our responsibility to ensure that the exit is done in an orderly manner," Philippe said.
(Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Paul Carrel)