Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator for Britain’s exit from the EU commonly referred to as Brexit, has scolded his British counterpart, describing London’s exit demands as “simply impossible.”
“The UK wants to take back control, it wants to set its own standards and regulations, but it also wants to have these standards recognized automatically in the EU, that is what the UK position papers say,” Barnier said on Thursday.
“This is simply impossible; you cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order,” Barnier said at a joint press conference to mark the end of the latest round of talks.
Barnier took part in the press conference with David Davis, Britain’s Brexit minister, at the end of the third round of negotiations between the EU and British negotiators in Brussels.
The third round of Brexit talks started on Monday, more than a year after Britons narrowly voted in a national referendum to leave the EU and months after the UK government submitted its formal request for exiting the union.
Barnier complained that despite three rounds of Brexit talks, no “decisive progress” had been achieved so far.
“We are quite far from being able to say that sufficient progress has taken place, sufficient for me to be able to recommend to the European Council that it engage in discussions on the future relationship between the UK and EU,” he said.
Barnier criticized the current slow pace of talks, saying the chances of reaching a deal were unlikely.
Davis, on the contrary, claimed the sides had made “concrete progress.”
The British negotiator said the delay had been due to the EU side being too rigid in its stance and requested a more flexible approach by Brussels.
“Our discussions this week have exposed yet again that UK’s approach is substantially more flexible and pragmatic than that of the EU,” Davis argued.
“I remain of the view there is an unavoidable overlap between withdrawal and the future and they cannot be neatly compartmentalized,” he said, reiterating London’s stance that talks on splitting from the EU and forging a new relationship should largely run in parallel.
The Brits want the divorce and future ties to be included in one deal. The EU side demands a clean-cut divorce, before it begins talks on post-Bexit trade.
The two sides also have opposing views over several other issues, including immigration, Ireland and an arbitration body for legal cases.
Their biggest argument, however, is over the divorce bill and Barrier said he and Davis remained far apart on what Britain should pay on departure to account for previous commitments.
The bloc has previously floated a sum of around 60 billion euros, which Britain swiftly dismissed as ridiculously high.
Barnier said the EU’s and Britain’s positions remained far apart, adding there was little chance that, at the current pace, the EU would agree to start talks about its future relationship with London as had originally been expected in October.
“With such uncertainty – how can we build trust and discuss future relationship?” Barnier asked.
The next round of Brexit talks is scheduled to start on September 18.