Barnier threatens Brexit transition
The UK’s Brexit “bulldog”, David Davis, is verbally sparing with European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier over claims that unacceptable British demands had thrown the idea of a transition period into doubt.
Speaking after talks, Barnier said he had been left mystified by the UK. “To be quite frank, if these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given,” Barnier said.
The comments hit the value of the pound. During the proposed 21-month transition, Britain would in effect stay in the EU, and under its laws, but lose its ability to make decisions.
The UK said it wanted to treat EU citizens arriving during the transition period differently from those already in the country. It is also seeking a right to object to the enforcement of new EU law, which is reportedly opposed by other member states, including France and Germany.
Barnier told the media that he was “surprised” by Davis’ demands and suggested that London must compromise to avoid differences becoming insurmountable.
“When I met David Davis … the UK insisted that we should reach an agreement in March on this transition period,” Barnier said. “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.”
Davis said he was “surprised” to hear Barnier was unclear about his stance on the transition period.
“We are seeking a time-limited period that maintains access to each other’s markets on existing terms,” said the “bulldog”.
Davis claimed there was a “fundamental contradiction” in the approach the European Commission was taking to Brexit talks.
“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.”
Meanwhile, new British legislation to replace the EU’s licensing system for hauliers may result in Irish trucks avoiding the UK, according to the Irish Road Haulage Association.
Legislation introduced in London this week paves the way for British certification of track drivers’ licences and vehicles, instead of EU certification.
The government is keen that its own licensing system be in place in advance of Brexit in March 2019, and is seeking a deal on mutual recognition of licensing with the EU.
Pro-EU protesters in London last year. Picture credit: Wikimedia