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EU Negotiator Michel Barnier: Brexit Will Not Be ‘Quick and Painless’

The European Union’s chief negotiator in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, Michel Barnier, has said that an exit agreement will not be “quick and painless”.

“Some have created the illusion that Brexit would have no material impact on our lives or that negotiations can be concluded quickly and painlessly,” said Barnier. “This is not the case.”

He added the situation would require “sound solutions [and] legal precision, and this will take time”.

The former European Commissioner and French foreign minister confirmed the EU was looking at a two-phase process for Brexit, but was only willing to consider the first phase at present. This phase would hinge mainly on Britain’s outstanding financial obligations, as Brussels sees them, the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and Britain’s land border with the EU at the boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“The UK must put a great deal of energy and effort into these three issues over the next weeks and months and that will increase the chances of making a deal,” Barnier said.

Regarding the bill, which the negotiator did not estimate himself but which has reportedly been revised upwards from 60 billion euros to 100 billion euros, he insisted it was “not a punishment, nor is it an exit tax of some kind”.

Barnier contends that Britain and the EU “have committed to financing projects and programmes together”. Because “we decided these programmes together [and] we benefit from them together”, the two parties must continue to “finance them together”.

“Basically, we have to close the account, and it is no more and no less,” Barnier continued. “No punishment. There is no Brexit bill.”

Barnier claimed the EU figure, which may include ongoing payments to Turkey and Ukraine, will be “incontestable”. He said he could not understand “why here and there I hear mentions of punishment”.

“We are not trying to create problems. We wish to resolve problems, and the way to resolve a problem is to be objective and rigorous in our approach, not over-dramatic.

“We have to be rigorous in our approach to clearing these accounts, because otherwise the situation might be explosive, if we have to stop programmes. Can you imagine the political problems which might arise?”

Responding, Brexit minister David Davis said the British “are not supplicants. This is a negotiation. They lay down what they want and we lay down what we want.”

Asked if there was any chance HM Government would accept the mooted figured directly, Davis insisted the UK “will not be paying €100 billion”.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery

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