Monday

23rd May 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Podcast

Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.

Opinion

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Missing guns amid rising far-right hate in EU
  2. MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub
  3. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  4. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  5. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  6. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  7. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  8. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us