Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

Barnier to UK: trade talks will come after settling accounts

  • Barnier said settling the UK's financial bill before leaving the EU is "not a punishment" (Photo: European Commission)

The UK needs to conclude all the terms of its EU exit including its liabilities, before talks on a trade deal and the future relationship can start, the EU's chief negotiator said on Wednesday (22 March).

Michel Barnier said that an orderly withdrawal is pre-requisite to discussions on the future relationship.

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

"If we do not end these uncertainties and push them to the end of negotiations, we will be headed for failure," he said in a speech at the European Committee of the Regions.

London has hoped that the two, the divorce agreement and a trade deal with the EU, could be negotiated in parallel.

The EU seeks first to close an agreement, in principle, on securing the rights of over four million EU citizens caught up in Brexit.

"Guaranteeing their rights as European citizens, in the long term, will be our absolute priority from the very start of the negotiations," Barnier said, adding that an agreement on the principles of continuity, reciprocity and non-discrimination should be reached as soon as possible.

The EU also wants to settle the financial bill, even if not the exact amount and to agree on the borders issue - particularly concerning Northern Ireland. This is to be done before discussions can move into a new phase on the future relations, and eventually end with talks on a transitional deal.

No punishment

Barnier, the former French EU commissioner, said the UK needs to settle the accounts before leaving - in order to avoid uncertainty in the EU budget.

"There is no price to pay to leave. But we must settle the accounts," he said, adding that "there is no punishment", when a member leaves the union. He added that the UK will only be asked to pay what it had agreed to before.

Barnier listed the regional and social funds, the development funds and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's investment plan, which the UK had made commitments to contribute towards.

Serious consequences

Barnier also warned the UK that failing to reach a divorce settlement would have “serious consequences” for the UK.

London has entertained the idea that no deal would be better than a bad deal forced on them by the rest of the 27 member states.

But Barnier echoed what European Council president Donald Tusk said last week, saying the UK would end up worse off.

“This scenario of ‘no deal’ is not ours. We want a deal. We want to succeed," Barnier said in a speech he gave in English and French.

The French politician highlighted that the reintroduction of customs controls could slow down trade and supply chains and lead to queues at Dover port, could disrupt air traffic and lead to the suspension of movement of nuclear materials to and from the UK.

Barnier's comments were the first major reaction from the EU since London announced on Monday that prime minister Theresa May will trigger the two-year Article 50 divorce procedure on 29 March.

According to the EU's plans, once May's notification arrives, the 27 EU leaders will gather on 29 April to lay down the guidelines for the negotiations.

At a later stage, member states will authorise Barnier to start negotiations based on a detailed plan. Talks are expected to kick off "before the summer", according to officials.

Tusk: No deal on Brexit would hit UK hardest

The European Council president warned the UK against getting cosying up to the idea of having no Brexit deal at the end of the divorce negotiations, as the EU gears up for receiving PM May's notification.

UK parliament clears way for Brexit talks

UK MPs refuse to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK and do not expect a "meaningful vote" at the end of the Brexit talks, as May gets ready to trigger Article 50.

EU gives mandate for Barnier to take on Brexit

In its final preparatory act before Brexit talks begin, the EU has officially given the negotiating mandate to Michel Barnier. The French politician said he would like to start negotiations on the week of 19 June.

Brexit talks restart in sense of urgency

The first full round of Brexit talks on key issues kicks off on Monday, while infighting heats up in the UK government over its strategy.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges

The British prime minister dramatically delayed a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute, as she faced defeat. Theresa May will now speed-tour EU capitals to try to secure further political guarantees.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us