EU diplomats 'concerned at Michel Barnier's negotiating stance'

Posted On: 
11th February 2018

Michel Barnier's "aggressive" approach to negotiating the Brexit transition has reportedly caused concern among EU diplomats.

Michel Barnier pictured on Downing St earlier this week
Credit: 
PA

Among the areas of concern is the Frenchman's insistence on a so-called "punishment clause" to impose penalties if the UK breaks the transition agreement. 

Mr Barnier raised the stakes on Friday by claiming an agreement was "not a given" if the two sides cannot hammer out their differences.

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Among the issues dividing the UK and the EU is whether Europeans will have full residency rights in the UK if they arrive after March 2019, but before the end of the two-year transition. 

Brexit Secretary David Davis also wants a mechanism for the UK to avoid implementing new EU directives it does not agree with. 

Mr Barnier was cool on the idea of concessions, saying Britain "should logically accept all the rules and obligations until the end of the transition".

But one EU diplomat told the Sunday Telegraph the UK would be within its rights to reject the Commission's proposals. 

“Could anyone accept these terms? If I was Britain I would be tempted to say ‘no’ – walk away and then see how the EU does without the money.”

Elsewhere the Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Poland, said Warsaw was also concerned about Mr Barnier's "opening salvo".

“In private, many Polish politicians are expressing regret at the Commission not treating Britain with due consideration and respect," he said.

And a Whitehall source also told the Sunday Telegraph that French officials were also unhappy with the way the Commission had opened the negotiations.

“My understanding is the French were cross at the lack of consultation on the so called legal document, which was really an aggressive political opening salvo," the source said.

“The Nordics and East Europeans are also fracturing the coalition. Barnier … fears having his legs cut off by the Franco/German alliance – hence his belligerent tone.”