EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier at a press conference in Brussels on 9 February 2018
Several „substantial“ disagreements between the European Union and the United Kingdom could call into question the transition phase demanded by London after the Brexit, warned on Friday the chief negotiator of the EU Michel Barnier.
„Given these disagreements, the transition is not acquired,“ warned Mr. Barnier at a press conference in Brussels that concluded a new round of discussions, at a technical level, between the two camps.
The Frenchman, who was Monday in London to meet with his British counterpart David Davis and Prime Minister Theresa May, said he had „difficulties in understanding“ the differences of positions „since it is the United Kingdom itself who asked a transition period „.
„The United Kingdom has insisted on finding an agreement in this transitional period in March, but at the same time our interlocutors have told us of a number of disagreements that I consider substantial,“ Barnier said.
The EU requests that during the transition period, which it wants to see spread from the Brexit date at the end of March 2019 to the end of 2020, European legislation continues to apply for the UK. Which would no longer be associated with the decisions taken now at 27.
The EU negotiator rejected „bad faith“ in the talks, a charge made on Thursday by Brexit Minister David Davis during a statement of unusual virulence.
„There is no desire to punish the United Kingdom, no desire to punish,“ said Barnier.
David Davis had judged „in bad faith and misguided“ a document unveiled Wednesday by the EU, which sets the rules to be respected by London during this transition.
This draft text provides for the possibility of sanctions, in particular „a mechanism allowing the Union to suspend certain benefits for the United Kingdom as a result of its participation in the single market“.
Invited to react, Michel Barnier refused to „enter this game“.
– Three points of divergence –
He focused on the three points of divergence that appeared during the week.
The first concerns the right of European citizens. If London recognizes the principle of free movement of persons during the transitional period, it does not wish to grant the same rights to citizens who arrived during that period once it has expired, and to those who arrived before Brexit.
In addition, the British government wants to continue being able to oppose new rules voted during the transitional period if they do not agree.
Finally, in terms of justice and home affairs, he wants to continue to be able to participate in some EU issues, reported Michel Barnier.
„Frankly I am surprised by these disagreements, the positions of the European Union are very logical,“ insisted the chief negotiator, for whom the United Kingdom must accept „the inevitable consequences“ of his departure.
The EU is demanding the protection of the „integrity“ of its single market during the transitional period, during which the United Kingdom will continue to participate in the common market and the customs union.
„If these disagreements were to persist, there would be a problem for sure, and I hope we can resolve these disagreements in the next rounds,“ said the chief negotiator of the Union.
The sensitive issue of Northern Ireland was also discussed during the week of talks, with the EU and the United Kingdom still seeking a solution to avoid the return of a physical border between the British province and Ireland.
„It is important to tell the truth: the British decision to leave the single market and the customs union would make border controls inevitable,“ said Barnier.