- Barnier warned of a looming no-deal Brexit unless the text he negotiated was adhered to “to the letter.”
- European rules continue to apply in the UK for a transitional period that lasts until the end of December.
- Negotiations are due to resume on Tuesday after a mid-May round of negotiations marked by a lack of progress.
A no-deal Brexit looms for the UK unless its Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, sticks to the very promises that he made while securing the withdrawal agreement, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier has warned. Barnier accused the Prime Minister of seemingly trying to take an about turn from the written agreement in the political declaration that was arrived at and signed between the UK and the European Commission.
He warned of a looming no-deal Brexit unless the text he negotiated was adhered to “to the letter.” He also elaborated that Britain stands out as the ultimate loser if the talks eventually fail. Mr. Barnier spoke in an interview with The Sunday Times.
“The U.K. has been taking a step back — two steps back, three steps back — from the original commitments. The U.K. negotiators need to be fully in line with what the prime minister signed up to with us. Because 27 heads of state and government and the European parliament do not have a short memory.”
Ahead of the resumption of the negotiations next Tuesday, Barnier reminded Johnson that the European Union remembers “very clearly the text which we negotiated with Boris Johnson. And we just want to see that complied with. To the letter. . . And if that doesn’t happen, there will be no agreement,” said Barnier.
The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on January 31, but European rules continue to apply in the territory for a transitional period that lasts until the end of December. This is necessary to reach a trade agreement between the two parties.
Negotiations are due to resume on Tuesday after a mid-May round of negotiations marked by a lack of progress. “Time is running out,” warned Michel Barnier, mentioning that any extension of the transition period must be requested before July.
However, the UK Government, under the stewardship of Boris Johnson, has been adamant. He does not admit to prolonging negotiations beyond December, as British negotiator David Frost said on Wednesday. There is now a possibility that there will be no agreement, with consequences for the economy.
For Michel Barnier, Brexit is, in any case, a lose-lose proposition for the UK and EU.
“If we don’t get an agreement then that will have even more consequences. And then of course those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis. So I think we have a joint responsibility in this very serious crisis, which affects so many families . . . to do everything we can to reach an agreement and I very much hope that we will do so.”
Mr. Barnier elaborated that it is in the interests of both parties to reach an agreement, even if the United Kingdom has much more to lose in the context of a no-deal Brexit than Europe. “We are less exposed because 7% of our exports go to the UK, whereas for the UK it’s 47% of their exports which come to the EU. So I think that it is in the interests of both sides to find an agreement.”
Supposing an agreement or the extension of negotiations aren’t arrived at, trade between the two parties will be governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization. New trade barriers will cause high costs for importing companies on both sides, as well as delays at the borders.