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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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EU warns disagreements turning Brexit negotiations sour

Ongoing Brexit negotiations

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BRUSSELS, Belgium - In a warning issued on Friday, European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the Brexit transition period is “not a given” if disagreements with the U.K. persist.

Barnier’s statement came immediately after Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis accused the EU of using "discourteous language" in a leaked document on the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

During the implementation phase of Brexit or the proposed 21-month transition period, the U.K. would effectively stay in the EU and under its laws.

However, it will lose its seat on the EU decision-making table.

Now, both sides are battling on key differences on the U.K.’s demand for power to object to new rules imposed on it during the transition period.

Further, restrictions on the rights of EU citizens who come to Britain during that phase, and the ability to opt in to certain European policies have become contentious topics.

Barnier said on Friday that the EU has "problems" in understanding the position of the British government.

In a statement, he said, "I'm surprised by these disagreements and if they persist, a transition is not a given. I wasn't talking about a threat. We have to bear in mind what the U.K. has said. I have some problems understanding the position. They themselves asked for this transition period.”

He added, “The EU's 27 heads of government said yes on the basis of very logical positions. It's understandable. But if this disagreement were to persist there will undoubtedly be a problem.”

Barnier refused to answer reporters’ questions on Davis’ allegation of "discourteous language.”

He claimed he had remained objective and calm but insisted it was time for the U.K. to make choices on key issues such as the Northern Ireland border.

Barnier said, “It is important to tell the truth.”

A recent confrontation has also emerged over EU’s accusation that the U.K. cancelled a planned meeting due to a "diary clash.”

British officials have, however, denied cancellation and claimed the meeting had merely been moved to a later time.

The U.K. and EU are now working towards reaching an agreement on the transition period before the European Council meeting in March.

Reaching an agreement before March 29, 2019 is crucial for the U.K. for otherwise, Britain would effectively crash out of the economic bloc without a deal unless the negotiation period is extended by consent of all 27 EU countries, or Article 50 is revoked.

Barnier’s intervention was termed a “wake up call” for the British prime minister by Opposition Labour party's shadow Brexit minister Kier Starmer.

Starmer said, “Theresa May must end the infighting within her Cabinet, drop her reckless red lines and accept Labour's proposals for a transitional deal. That means seeking to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during that period.”

 

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