Michel Barnier urges UK to stop wasting time on Brexit talks

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The EU’s chief negotiator has warned he can’t negotiate with himself as he urges the UK to appoint a negotiating team to get on with Brexit talks.

Michel Barnier’s remit is to negotiate exit terms, including the UK’s divorce bill and the status of EU citizens in the UK. Talks on a future trading relationship will then follow although the UK has previously voiced its preference for both sets of negotiations to occur concurrently.

Speaking to a group of European newspapers, Barnier says there is no spirit of revenge or punishment, but warned many in the UK had underestimated the consequences of leaving the EU.

Barnier said he wants negotiations wrapped up by November 2018 in order to give Governments time to ratify it and dismissed suggestions that the March 2019 deadline could be extended, the Financial Times reports.

“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,” he said, pointing out next month three months will have passed since the triggering of Article 50 and no progress has been made.

“I can’t negotiate with myself.”

Barnier says his mission is to preserve the unity on the issue of Brexit and the Financial Times reports his corridor is lined with the flags of the EU, minus the UK.

The EU is open to all models of future relationships, but is preparing for the possibility of ‘no deal’ on Brexit, in which case the UK would fall back on WTO rules on trade, Barnier says.

However, he is not supportive of bespoke single market models that involve cherry picking of the EU’s four freedoms.

“It’s not a supermarket — it’s a community, a space of economic and social and human life.”

Barnier noted the negotiations are unique in that they’re focussed on divergence rather than the convergence that is sought in most trade deals.