The UK’s Brexit negotiations have begun badly due to “differences” inside the cabinet, the former head of the diplomatic service has said.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Sir Simon Fraser, Foreign Office chief until 2015, expressed concerns that the British side had been “a bit absent” from negotiations discussing the future relationship between the UK and the European Union.

Fraser said the UK had yet to put forward clear any negotiating positions, and in-fighting between cabinet members was causing confusion.

He said:

“The negotiations have only just begun, I don’t think they have begun particularly promisingly, frankly, on the British side.

“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.”

He went on to call on the government to publish further details about its ideas and goals for the public and businesses outside of the EU.

Fraser’s comments come after the EU questioned whether negotiations should be paused because the UK has yet to publish its position on a settlement bill, with some cabinet ministers claiming the UK should pay no money to the EU when it leaves, while others say the figure could be as high as £36bn.

Government officials have tried to spin their lack of a united front in negotiations as “flexibility”, but MPs from across the political spectrum have started to grow concerned that the Brexiteers in charge of negotiations, including David David and Boris Johnson, are not up to the task.

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