Michel Barnier warns UK transition deal is 'not a given' unless Brexit deadlock is broken

Posted On: 
9th February 2018

Michel Barnier has warned the UK that a post-Brexit transition deal is "not a given" unless Theresa May makes major concessions in crunch negotiations.

Michel Barnier was in pugnacious form in Brussels.
Credit: 
BBC

The EU's chief negotiator said he was "surprised" that the Government was not willing to sign up to strict conditions laid down by Brussels on issues including citizens' rights.

Mrs May has said she is seeking an implementation period of around two years after Brexit day on 30 March, 2019, to help British businesses prepare for life outside the EU.

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But she has insisted that any EU citizens arriving in the UK during that period should not be able to enjoy the same rights as those coming before.

Another sticking point is the Government's reluctance to accept that new EU rules approved during the transition period should also apply to Britain.

Speaking at a Brussels press conference, Mr Barnier said: "I'm surprised by these disagreements. The positions of the European Union are very logical. If the UK wants to enjoy the advantages of the single market and customs union, it has to accept all the rules and obligations until the end of the transition.

"To be quite frank, if these disagreements persist the transition is not a given. As I said, time is very short and we haven’t a minute to lose if we want to succeed, and we do want to succeed in this orderly withdrawal."

He later added that his warning was not a “threat”, and that there would “undoubtedly be a problem” if both sides failed to make a breakthrough.

“It’s understandable that we should keep the regulatory and supervision structure, the financial commitments that way which rules are applied, I mean it’s the integrity of the single market at stake," he added.

“If this disagreement were to persist there would undoubtedly be a problem. I hope we’re able to resolve this disagreement in the next round.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis later his back, saying: "Given the intense work that has taken place this week it is surprising to hear that Michel Barnier is unclear on the UK's position in relation to the implementation period.”

'DISCOURTEOUS LANGUAGE'

Mr Barnier also indirectly hit back at Mr Davis' previous accusation that Brussels had used "discourteous language" over a leaked document on how the EU could punish the UK if it breaks any part of the transition deal.

He said: “Throughout these negotiations our attitude and my attitude has not been in the least discourteous or vindictive, we would never wish to punish the UK.

“It’s totally foreign to my state of mind and this has been true from the very beginning, this will be true to the very end of negotiations."