Latest round of Brexit talks concludes as EU-UK relations deteriorate

Written by Martin Banks on 9 February 2018 in News

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, insists there can be no guarantee of a transition period if the UK continues to argue over temporarily following the bloc’s rules and regulations. 

Michel Barnier and David Davis | Photo credit: Press Association

Speaking on Friday, Barnier said, “I am surprised by these disagreements. The EU positions are very logical, I think.”

Addressing reporters, he added, “The UK has to accept all the rules and obligations until the end of the transition. This is logical. It must also accept the consequences of leaving the EU’s institutions and policies.

“If these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given. Time is short, very short. We haven’t a minute to lose if we want to succeed.”


Barnier was speaking at a press conference at the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels on the state of negotiations. Earlier in the week, he was in London for Brexit talks.

His declaration was endorsed by the director general of the European Commission’s financial services directorate, Olivier Guersent.

Speaking on Thursday, Guersent said it’s “perfectly fair” that the UK has decided to diverge from the EU post-Brexit but “as a third country, you’re dealt with as a third country - no worse, no better.”

He said, “The EU has no intention of discriminating against the UK in a post-Brexit world. The US works fine in the current third-country framework, so I don’t see why the UK post Brexit wouldn’t.”

The comments by Barnier and the Commission official come after a week marked by a deterioration in relations between the two sides over the recent EU position paper on Brexit transitional arrangements.

The paper included a footnote describing the sanctions the EU would use against London during a transition period.

The document suggested the EU would have the right to suspend market access for the UK if it breached the terms of the transition deal.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said this was “hardly a legal document, it was a political document.”

He added, “What we’re about, is building an implementation period which is to build a bridge to a future where we work well together. I do not think it was in good faith to publish a document with frankly discourteous language and implying that they could arbitrarily terminate in effect the implementation period. That’s not what the aim of this exercise is. It’s not in good faith. We think it was unwise to publish that.” 

UK officials, who are unnamed, have reportedly accused the EU of blocking talks from restarting on Monday.

“We’re ready to work at pace across all issues - implementation period, separation issues and future - but it seems this is not being reciprocated at the moment,” a UK government official said.

Theresa May’s EU adviser, Olly Robbins, and the EU’s deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, are expected to meet today (Friday) to assess the progress made this week.

Senior EU figures reportedly believe that a Brexit transition period will extend beyond the end of 2020. EU officials told Reuters that they expect key issues, such as the operation of the Irish border and the future bilateral trade relationship, will remain unresolved at that point.

On Thursday, the UK government cabinet committee met to discuss the future UK-EU trade relationship, but failed to agree a final position on what the end-state partnership should look like.


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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