Brexit Talks End in ‘Substantial Disagreement,’ Transition Period ‘Not a Given’

EU commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier gives a press conference focused on the Commission roadmap to meet the long-term financing needs of the European economy on March 27, 2014 at the EU Headquarters in Brussels.
GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty

The so-called Brexit ‘transition’ period is “not a given” and could fail to materialise, European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier has insisted.

The French eurocrat Friday afternoon clashed with the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, speaking of “surprising” new demands from the United Kingdom in the talks and “substantial” disagreement.

“To be quite frank, if these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given,” he declared.

Mr. Davis did not join Mr. Barnier at the press conference following their talks, as he has previously, and hit back at EU “contradictions” later.

“When I met David Davis in London on Monday and once again in negotiations in Brussels this week, the UK insisted that we should reach an agreement in March on this transition period,” Mr. Barnier said at the conference.

According to the Guardian, he added: “At the same time, however, our partners set out a certain number of disagreements which I regard as substantial.”

“I don’t understand some of the positions of the UK… I am surprised by these disagreements. The positions of the EU are very logical… If these disagreements persist, there will undoubtedly be a problem.”

Speaking later, Mr. Davis responded: “Given the intense work that has taken place this week, it is surprising to hear that Michel Barnier is unclear on the UK’s position in relation to the implementation period.”

He also acknowledged, that “for any such period to work, both sides will need a way to resolve disputes in the unlikely event that they occur… But there is a fundamental contradiction in the approach the Commission is taking.”

Earlier this week, leaked EU documents showed how the bloc is moving to acquire unprecedented powers to punish Britain during the so-called Brexit ‘transition period’.

They want the ability to ground flights, suspend Single Market access, and impose trade tariffs on the country if it is perceived to have broken any rules during the two-year period.

Referencing the demanded sanction powers, Mr. Davis said: “Today they acknowledged that a way to resolve disputes and infringements is needed.

“Yet at the same time, they dismissed the UK’s push for reasonable safeguards to ensure our interests are protected. It is not possible to have it both ways.”

Draft withdrawal agreements leaked this week have also shown the EU wants Northern Ireland to stay inside the bloc’s Single Market and Customs Union, claiming a hard border will be needed otherwise.

Confirming their stand, Mr. Barnier said Friday: “It is important to tell the truth, a UK decision to leave the Single Market and Customs Union would make border checks inevitable”

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politicians were unimpressed with the comments, insisting a free trade deal could be struck to keep the border open.

The DUP has already insisted Northern Ireland will not leave the EU on different terms to the rest of the United Kingdom, and leading Ian Paisley Jr, a leading MP for the party, has said that if the EU insists on a hard border it should be left for them to build it.

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