Michel Barnier: UK only has one year left to get a Brexit deal
Michel Barnier has warned that there is “only one year left” for the UK to secure a deal on Brexit.
The EU’s chief negotiator also said that without an agreement there would be no chance of the transition period being sought by Theresa May.
His comments, in a speech to the Italian parliament in Rome, came as the Prime Minister prepares to deliver a major speech 170 miles away in Florence.
Mr Barnier said: “If we want a deal, time is of the essence. The Treaty on European Union foresees a period of two years to negotiate withdrawal.
“Six months have gone by since Theresa May's letter on 29 March 2017. Six months will be necessary to allow for ratification before 29 March 2019.
“There is therefore only one year left.”
Mrs May briefed her Cabinet on details of the forthcoming address in two and a half hour meeting in Downing Street this morning.
According to the BBC, the Prime Minister will make an "open and generous" cash offer to the rest of the EU in a bid to break the deadlock over the negotiations.
That is thought to include the offer of around £20bn during a two-year post-Brexit transition arrangement guaranteeing continued access to the European single market and customs union.
But in his speech, Mr Barnier said: "Without a withdrawal agreement, there is no transition. This is a point of law."
But hardline Eurosceptic Tory MP Peter Bone said any payments to the EU after Brexit would betray the outcome of last year's referendum.
He told Sky News: “Any “divorce bill” would be too much for me ... The idea that we continue to pay vast sums of money to the EU would completely break what was one of the main issues in the referendum.
"So I don’t think for one minute that the government will contemplate that."