Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Brexit transition period not a given, says EU's Barnier

Brexit transition period not a given, says EU's Barnier

The Labour leader, along with Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, met with European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in London, where Corbyn is reported to have promised to run negotiations "very differently", a memo from the meeting seen by us reveals.

Barnier said it was "important to tell the truth" that border checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland would be "unavoidable" if it left the single market and the customs union.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019 and that there will not be a rerun of the referendum, though opponents of Brexit want another vote. While UK recognizes that the right of free movement of persons will fully apply during the transition period, it does not want to extend those rights to people who arrived during the period.

Fast forward two months and the Border question remains unanswered, with just over a year to go until Brexit and with substantial disagreements over the make-up of the transition period.

British officials have for the most part welcomed the proposed plan and Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman commented on the situation stating that the proposal was in many ways aligned with the path that the British had in mind when they asked for a transition period.

"The EU27 heads of government said yes on the basis of very logical positions".

However, although Ms May held crucial meetings with her cabinet this week to discuss Britain's approach to the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, the European Union side fears the British are no closer to setting out what they want and how they propose to achieve it. It warned that businesses and banks are likely to relocate operations because Britain leaving the single market makes Japanese businesses "face difficulties".

PM May has met with MEP Roberto Gualtieri to talk about citizens' rights
PM May has met with MEP Roberto Gualtieri to talk about citizens' rights

But the exact outcome of what it will mean for British expats is still unclear, especially regarding free movement which is due to come to an end in March next year but it now looks as if there will be a transition period nearly two years.

The impact would not be isolated to companies and consumers in Northern Ireland. "We haven't a minute to lose if we want to succeed".

Mr Barnier said time was "very short" for both sides to strike a deal to stop a cliff-edge departure on Brexit day.

"Any solution must be precise, clear and unambiguous", explained Barnier.

"But there is a fundamental contradiction in the approach the Commission is taking".

"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 United Kingdom government official said. Yet at the same time, they dismissed the UK's push for reasonable safeguards to ensure our interests are protected.

Unlike after previous negotiation rounds, Mr Davis did not travel to Brussels for a joint press conference with Mr Barnier.

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