The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned a transition period for the UK government “is not a given” following a number of “substantial” disagreements with Britain over the terms of its exit from the bloc.
Speaking after technical Brexit talks this week, Michel Barnier said Brussels and the UK had clashed over citizens rights, the UK’s acceptance of new EU rules during the transition, and Britain’s role in justice and home affairs policies after Brexit.
“If these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given”, Mr Barnier said on Friday.
“To be frank I am surprised by these disagreements. The positions of the EU are very logical”.
Mr Barnier also hit back at claims from David Davis, his UK counterpart, that Brussels was acting “discourteously” in threatening to cut off single market access during the transition period if Britain does not abide by its terms.
“My attitude has not been in the least discourteous. It is totally foreign to my state of mind” said the commission’s Brexit chief.
There are three areas of disagreement over the terms of the transition, said Mr Barnier. Among them, Britain has asked Brussels for a right to object to new EU rules which it would have to fully apply after 2019 during a two-year transition period. The UK also wants to limit the rights of new EU citizens coming to the UK in the transition period and has asked to “opt-in” to EU security policies on justice and home affairs after Brexit.
“The sooner the UK makes its choices the better. I wasn’t talking about a threat when I talked about the transition. I have some problems understanding the UK’s position. They themselves asked for this transition period”, said Mr Barnier.
“If these disagreements persist, there will undoubtedly be a problem. I hope we are able to sort out these disagreements in the next round.”
The comments hit the pound, which chalked up a 0.6 per cent decline on the day to $1.3822.
Mr Barnier added that a scheduled meeting with UK negotiators later today had been cancelled following a “diary clash” on the British side.
“That is the only meeting which has so far been cancelled,” he said.
The question of the Irish border has also re-emerged as a sticking point in talks over the transition. Mr Barnier called on the UK to provide a “precise, clear and unambiguous” proposals to avoid reimposing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“The UK has committed to proposing specific solutions to the unique issue of Ireland. We are waiting for such solutions”, said Mr Barnier.