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Brexit transition ‘not a given’, EU’s Barnier warns

AFP / File / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS
Britain will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, almost three years after the referendum vote for Brexit
EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned Friday that plans for a post-Brexit transition period to ease the breadth of the split were at risk because of “substantial” disagreements with Britain. Barnier also rejected claims by his British counterpart David Davis that had been “discourteous” by a clause in a draft treaty.
“If these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given,” Barnier told a news conference in Brussels after a round of Brexit talks with British negotiators. “To be frank I am surprised by these disagreements.” Davis hit back at Barnier, adding it was “surprising” the Frenchman was “unclear” about London’s position after a week of what he called intense work. Britain hopes to agree on an EU summit next month on a transition period of two years after it leaves the European Union in 2019. During this period, Britain will still follow the decision-making power. Barnier said deep divisions remained on citizens’ rights for EU migrants moving to Britain during the transition, as well as the UK’s ability to object to new EU laws passed during the phase. There was also a row in the United States, which the EU says should last from Brexit Day on March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020. – ‘Fundamental contradiction’ – The Brexit transition is aimed at giving citizens, businesses and public services time to get the most out of the EU-UK trade deal. Barnier added that he “was not talking about a threat” but “it would be a problem, I hope we would be able to resolve the disagreements in the next round of talks.

AFP / Emmanuel DUNAND
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said there was “no desire to punish” Britain
The French minister was also criticized by Davis, who was not in Brussels, that the EU was acting in bad faith and had been “discourteous”. “There has been a slightest trace of a lack of courtesy or aggression,” Barnier said.
Barnier said that he did not understand the angry British reaction to a transitional agreement that contained swift sanctions for Britain if it breached the terms of the deal, including freezing its single market access. “There is no desire to punish,” Barnier said, adding that it was a standard for international agreements to have a “serious and effective” enforcement mechanism. A draft EU agreement published on Wednesday calls for the sanction to be sanctioned in the United States in which it would take too much to breach the rules of the EU’s top court. That could include reimposing tariffs or customs checks, both of which are eligible for membership of the EU internal market. But Davis criticized a “fundamental contradiction” in the commission approach. “One’s hand, he said,” the commission sees the need for a “resolve to resolve disputes” on the “UK’s push for reasonable safeguards to ensure our interests are protected.” Davis added: “It’s not possible to have it both ways.” – Irish border checks ‘unavoidable’ – This week’s talks also covered the thorny issue of Northern Ireland.

POOL / AFP / Steve Parsons
Brexit Minister David Davis has had a say in discourteous
Britain and the EU reached an interim deal in December – the financial settlement, the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens after Brexit. A goal of translating that into a proper legal agreement is especially difficult on the Northern Irish issue.
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. He added that the eventual deal would contain an emergency option which would be more important for the UK, but the UK would remain in “full alignment” with the EU on trade issues to ease the border impact. Northern Irish unionists and pro-Brexit lawmakers have already angrily rejected this. Britain and the EU in the future Barnier says a draft deal is needed by November so it can be ratified in time for Brexit.

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