Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

Barnier warns UK Brexit transition period 'not a given'

  • Barnier said the UK needs to make up its mind on what kind of relationship is wants with the EU (Photo: European Commission)

EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned the UK on Friday (9 February) that the transition period requested by London is "not a given", as the British government struggles to come up with a clear vision for the future relationship.

After one of the tensest weeks so far in the nearly one year-old talks, Barnier told reporters that there are "substantial" disagreements on the transitional period designed to last between March 2019 when the UK leaves the bloc and December 2020.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • PM May (r) has met with MEP Roberto Gualtieri to talk about citizens' rights (Photo: Number 10 - Flickr)

Earlier this week his counterpart, Brexit minister David Davis, criticised Brussels for adding 'good faith' clauses to the transition period negotiating mandate.

One of the new current obstacles are citizens' rights, where the UK does not want to extend the rights agreed last December to EU nationals who arrive to the UK during the transition period itself.

Another issue is the application of new EU rules, agreed during the transition period without the UK's say, and EU sanctions if the UK fails to implement them. Here the UK has asked for the right to object to new laws.

A third thorny issue is the UK's wish to continue to take part in new EU home affairs policies, a surprising move according to Barnier as the UK is about to sever its ties with the bloc.

"If these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given," Barnier said simply.

During the transition period old and new EU rules would apply to the UK fully, but London would no longer represent itself in the decision-making process of any of the three Brussels EU institutions - Commission, Council, Parliament.

Barnier added he was surprised by the "uproar" prompted by an EU plan to set up a dispute settlement mechanism to allow the EU to curb the UK's access to the internal market if the UK breaks EU law.

"It is perfectly normal to provide for effective implementation mechanism to settle disputes," he said.

"We never wish to punish the UK," the French politician added.

Indicating it is unlikely the UK would face future sanctions, Barnier pointed out that the UK currently faces only a few legal procedures for not complying with EU law, calling Britain a "good student".

The EU argues that it was the UK that requested a transition period during which Britain remains a part of the single market and the customs union, therefore the UK needs to take the rules that come with that.

Ireland is back

Banier also warned London on Ireland, which has been a major hurdle during the discussions on the terms of divorce last December.

The aim is to preserve the frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so that the Good Friday agreement that secured peace there will not unravel.

Amid immense pressure on British prime minister Theresa May from her unionist allies in Northern Ireland, the two sides then fudged a clear solution and presented three options to avoid a hard border.

Those three options are: either dealing with the issue under the overall future relationship, alternative and specific solutions drawn up by the UK, or maintaining full regulatory alignment with those single market and the customs union rules that underpin the Good Friday agreement and cooperation on the island of Ireland.

The EU is currently putting the December agreement into a legal text, and Barnier suggested that unless the UK comes up with "precise, clear and unambiguous solutions", the EU will work out the third option, since the first two could only be done in the context of the future relations.

"It is important to tell the truth. The UK's decision to leave the single market and the customs union would make border checks unavoidable," Barnier warned.

If the UK leaves the customs union, custom checks will have to be introduced on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will become the EU's new external border.

"It is our responsibility to include the third option in the text of the withdrawal agreement, to guarantee that there will be no hard border, whatever the circumstances. This means we must start legally defining how the scenario would work in operational terms," he said.

Barnier warned that the issue of Ireland's border could unravel the withdrawal agreement and the transitions period could be in doubt. "No transition period is possible if there is no withdrawal agreement,"he said.

'Diary clash'

The EU was expecting a briefing by the British side on how it envisages the future relationship as May is stuck between hard line Brexiteers and those who advocate for maintaining closer ties with the EU.

Barnier said the briefing scheduled for Friday did not happen because of "diary clash" on the UK side.

UK officials disputed that and said May's Brexit advisor Olly Robbins will discuss dates and agenda with the EU's deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand on Friday afternoon.

"The time has come to make choices," Barnier repeated his message from Monday when he met with May in London.

"The sooner the UK makes its choices, the better," he said.

Analysis

The next hurdles in Brexit talks

As EU-27 came up with its positions for the transition period, and there are plenty of political landmines left for the talks. Here is a look at what could upset the Brexit negotiations.

EU draws red line on UK customs deal

Britain cannot keep its EU trade perks if it quits the customs union, the European Commission has warned as Brexit talks resume.

Barnier: open-ended Brexit transition 'not possible'

The EU will publish the draft legal text of the withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, including conditions on transition. Barnier warned there are still a "lot of points of disagreement" between the EU and the UK - including dates and Ireland.

Feature

Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Spanish special forces seized a boat from African 'pirates' as diplomats watched on Monday, in a drill marking Spain's bid to grab a top EU military mission from the UK.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan