The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, bluntly warned the U.K. that it may not get a Brexit transition period if London continues to dispute the proposed terms.
The transition “is not done,” Barnier said in French on Friday, adding in English, “It’s not a given.”
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has requested what she calls an “implementation period” of up to two years, to prevent a shock to the British economy that experts said would occur should the U.K. make an abrupt exit on March 29, 2019 — the legally-required withdrawal date.
Barnier, who was visibly annoyed as he spoke at a news conference in Brussels Friday, noted that the U.K. had put forward a list of objections to the terms of transition proposed by the EU. Expressing bewilderment, Barnier said that Britain “must accept the ineluctable consequences of its decision to leave the European Union, to leave its institutions and its policies.”
“Given these disagreements, and to be frank, the transition today is not done,” he said.
The U.K. has pushed back on an EU demand that guaranteed protections of citizens’ rights be extended until December 31, 2020, the proposed end date of the transition. The U.K. is insisting that the guarantees should apply only until the official withdrawal date.
“They don’t wish to extend these rights to citizens who will arrive during the transition period,” Barnier said. “That is a major subject for us and also for the European Parliament.”
Barnier also noted, with some dismay, the U.K.’s demand to be able to object to new EU rules or laws adopted during the transition period, and its request for an “opt-in” on justice and home affairs issues.
“To be frank, I am surprised by these disagreements,” Barnier said. “The positions of the European Union are very logical, I think. By asking to benefit from the advantages of the single market, of the customs union and common policies, the U.K must theoretically accept all the rules and obligations that these entail, until the end of the transition.”
Barnier also voiced surprise at the U.K.’s objection to a fast-track process that Brussels has proposed for adjudicating any disputes over EU rules that might arise during the transition — with the disputes essentially settled immediately in the EU’s favor.
“Why is there this provision, which has attracted a lot of comment, why is it necessary?” he said. “Well, if there is an infringement of European rules during the transitional period, our usual infringement proceedings which apply today to all the member states, these usual infringement proceedings may take too long, and therefore may not be operational to resolve a potential dispute between the U.K. and the EU during that very short time.”