Tuesday

21st May 2019

Barnier: UK risks undermining trust in Brexit talks

  • Michel Barnier told Italian lawmakers that the UK has one year to clinch an agreement (Photo: European Commission)

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned on Thursday (21 September) that a lack of progress on the financial settlement could undermine trust between the EU-27 and the UK, needed for talks on the future relationship.

His comments came a day before the British premier plans to set out her Brexit strategy in a speech in Florence, Italy, on Friday afternoon.

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Barnier was in Rome, speaking to the foreign and European affairs committees of the Italian parliament.

"But beyond money, this is a question of trust between the 27 and the United Kingdom, based on the respect of one's signature. And everyone knows that we will need this trust to create a solid relationship in the future," Barnier told the lawmakers.

May is expected to address the issue in her Florence speech.

UK negotiators have been arguing that the seven-year EU budget, which the EU-27 see as the basis for negotiations on the financial settlement, carries no legal obligation for the UK once it has left the bloc.

"All that is necessary in this negotiation is that everyone honours the commitments that they have made to each other. To settle the accounts. No more, no less," Barnier said in Rome.

The French negotiator - without mentioning May's upcoming speech - said that proposals from the UK, to overcome hurdles in the talks, are essential for a Brexit deal to be possible.

"We are waiting for clear commitments from the UK on these precise issues," Barnier said, referring to the key issues of citizens' rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border.

All of these issues need to be politically resolved before moving onto the next phase of negotiations on a transitional deal, and the future relations between the EU and the UK.

Barnier said that the issue of guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom has not been solved.

The EU's aim is for all citizens living in the UK to be able to continue to live as they did before, with the same rights and safeguards.

Barnier said these rights ultimately need to be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), something that has been unacceptable for the UK.

The former French minister and EU commissioner added that there is one year left to reach the divorce agreement before ratification must start.

In one year, the UK and the EU also needs to define the length and the conditions of a "short" transitional period, and begin scoping out the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Barnier also warned that, without a withdrawal deal, a transitional agreement will not be possible for the UK after leaving the bloc in March 2019.

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