Michel Barnier accuses UK of “lacking understanding” on Brexit trade talks

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator says he’s not optimistic deal can be struck, given “incomprehension on UK side”.
Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

15 May 2020

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels on Friday, he said, “I have to remind you we are negotiating with a third country, the UK’s choice, and it is not a question of picking and choosing the most attractive bits of the single market.”

The French EU official said, “This is a real lack of understanding on the objectives of the UK’s choice to leave the single market and, to make progress in these talks, the UK will have to get more realistic, go beyond this lack of understanding and change its strategy.”

He was speaking after the third round of talks this week, which were conducted by video links because of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.


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Barnier said citizens’ rights are a “priority for both sides,” adding, “The UK tells us that it has concerns about the treatment of UK citizens in the EU and we will be very attentive to this. We have today published guidelines for all Member States to live up to their commitments under the Withdrawal Agreement.”

He added, “We will also watch closely that EU citizens in the UK don’t face unfair treatment or discrimination.”

“This is a real lack of understanding on the objectives of the UK’s choice to leave the single market and, to make progress in these talks, the UK will have to get more realistic, go beyond this lack of understanding and change its strategy” EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

Barnier told reporters “the EU wants a modern, unprecedented, forward looking agreement, not a narrow one which is sliced up sector by sector. The EU will not act in haste on such an important matter.”

And he warned, “The next round of talks starting in the first week of June must bring new developments in order to avoid stalemate. We will remain calm and firm.”

He also admitted that video conferencing was, “not as effective as getting round a table, physically, and being in the same room. We are missing that because it is not possible right now.”

“But we have had 40 video conferences in the last five days in 11 negotiating groups.”

Barnier said, “In our closing meeting with David Frost, the chief UK negotiator, I said the talks had been very disappointing and hope the next one will be positive. These will lead us to either a no deal, and disorganised Brexit or a deal and an orderly Brexit.”

“In our closing meeting with David Frost, the chief UK negotiator, I said the talks had been very disappointing and hope the next one will be positive. These will lead us to either a no deal, and disorganised Brexit or a deal and an orderly Brexit” EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

“We are prepared for all options. I have to say I am not optimistic, given the incomprehension on the UK side. “We will not make a deal at any price.”

He warned, “The consequences of Brexit are still being underestimated and have not been taken on board by the British. There is UK blockage on the level playing field.”

“But we are not at the point of failure – there is still a will to move forward, though I have to say that the only positive outcome this week was progress on fisheries.”

Meanwhile, a survey says that 77 percent of Britons say the UK should agree to an extension of the Brexit transition period and focus on tackling the Coronavirus crisis, providing the EU asks for it.

The survey was carried out by Focaldata for Best for Britain, a cross-party group campaigning for close UK-EU relations.

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