Barnier Says U.K. Risks Crashing Out of EU If More Time Wasted

  • EU ready to start negotiations, bloc’s chief negotiator says
  • Talks ‘must begin,’ Barnier says in interview with newspapers

Michel Barnier.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

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Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the U.K. risks exiting the bloc without a deal in place if Theresa May’s government “wastes” more time before starting negotiations, according to an interview with the Financial Times and other European newspapers.

“We haven’t negotiated, we haven’t progressed,” Barnier told the news outlets, highlighting the nearly three months that have passed since the U.K. notified the EU of its intention to leave. “Thus we must begin this negotiation. We are ready as soon as the U.K. itself is ready.”

Michel Barnier

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Barnier and Oliver Robbins, the head of the U.K.’s Department for Exiting the European Union, failed to decide on a date to begin Brexit talks in a meeting in Brussels on Monday, adding to the sense of chaos created by May’s dismal showing in a snap election last week that saw her Conservative Party lose its parliamentary majority. The U.K. started the two-year withdrawal process in March and Barnier said the negotiating phase will need to be completed by November 2018.

“My preoccupation is that time is passing, it is passing quicker than anyone believes because the subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex,” Barnier told the newspapers. “I can’t negotiate with myself.”

‘Fully Prepared’

European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told reporters in Brussels on Monday that the EU is “fully prepared” to begin negotiations when the U.K. is ready.

While waiting for the U.K., the EU has drawn up detailed position papers on its negotiating position in areas including the safeguarding of citizens’ rights and Britain’s financial obligations to the bloc.

To read more about Brexit ‘talks about talks’, click here

European governments have remained steadfast in their view that the U.K. can’t have membership in the single market if it limits immigration and that Britain must agree to meet its financial obligations before discussions on a future trade deal can begin.

“There’s no spirit of revenge, no punishment, no naivety either,” Barnier said in the interview. “And there is truth. Truth on what Brexit means, what leaving the EU signifies by its consequences. The citizens have the right to know this truth.” In the U.K., he added, “lots of people underestimated these consequences. Lots of people.”

— With assistance by Ian Wishart

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