Thursday

17th Oct 2019

EU preparing for Brexit failure, Barnier says

  • Barnier (r) with UK negotiator David Davis (l) before one the rounds of talks (Photo: European Commission)

The EU is drawing up plans for a no deal Brexit scenario, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said in an interview published on Sunday (12 November).

Talking to France's Journal du Dimanche newspaper Barnier warned that people should prepare themselves for the possibility of Brexit talks collapsing.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"That's not my preferred option ... But it's a possibility. Everyone has to prepare for it, states as businesses - we are technically preparing ourselves," Barnier said.

The chief negotiator said after the latest round of talks last week that the UK needed to clarify its position on the divorce bill for talks to be able to move on to their next phase on future relations.

EU leaders will gather in December to assess whether Brexit negotiations have made enough progress on the key issues of the divorce money, the border of Northern Ireland, and citizens' rights to start discussions on the future and trade.

British prime minister Theresa May said in September that the UK would honour its financial commitments, but did not spell out in detail what the UK is willing to pay.

"Theresa May has committed to paying the 2019 and 2020 contributions [to the EU budget], as well as other commitments, without specifying which ones. We know what these are, for example, the guarantees given to the European Investment Bank, the European Development Fund, aid to Turkey and Ukraine, but also the pensions of European civil servants, the relocation of the European banks and drug agencies to leave London," Barnier said.

"The European taxpayer should not pay the price of a sovereign decision of the United Kingdom," he said, adding the EU wanted to reach an agreement within 15 working days.

Barnier pointed out that after Brexit the UK will be a third country, and that it is not fully prepared for the consequences of leaving the bloc.

A breakdown in talks could lead to British planes not being able to land in Europe, or cats and dogs not being able to cross the Channel, the negotiator warned.

"Without a deal on future trade, the EU and Britain would revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and trading relations, like those we have with China," Barnier said.

He added that the way to maintain free trade could be for UK, like Norway, to remain in the customs union and the single market. He said it was a scenario still "possible" for the EU, but that London preferred to leave both.

"We must have a divorce treaty in March 2019, which could include a short period of transition, and the same package should include a political statement that will decide our future relationship - but no more, because we do not have the time," he said.

Barnier's warning comes as pressure mounts on May's government to make progress on Brexit talks.

Her government is reluctant to engage in detailed discussions on the divorce bill before the outlines of the future relations are clear and for fear of backlash from the hardline Brexiteers.

Adding to the pressure was a leaked letter by environment secretary Michael Gove and foreign minister Boris Johnson who have made a veiled attack on chancellor Philip Hammond, for lacking "sufficient energy" in preparing for Brexit.

The private letter - marked only for the attention of the PM and her chief of staff - urged May to imposed a strict deadline on any 'transition' period,  and curb the influence of supporters of a soft Brexit, such as Hammond.

Brexit talks to resume next week

UK and EU officials will get together next Thursday to try to achieve "sufficient progress" by December on key issues for unlocking the next phase of negotiations.

EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

The EU has launched internal preparations for phase two of Brexit talks, but a December breakthrough only possible if UK gives more detail on divorce issues first.

Magazine

Michel Barnier: The UK's best friend in Brussels

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator is an atypical French politician, with a love for mountains and Europe. He has been steering Brexit talks with a steady hand, and a deal could catapult him to the higher echelons of EU politics.

Trade talks could only start post-Brexit

Substantive negotiations on an EU-UK free trade deal would only start once Brexit is a reality. The main issue could be how much the UK would want to retain elements of the single market, and what the EU agrees to.

Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us