EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has told the European Parliament “We have very little time left, a few useful hours in this negotiation”
Michel Barnier, the EU Chief Negotiator in the current trade talks with the United Kingdom has spoken at te plenary session of the European Parliament today.
His speech centred around the issue of a post-Brexit deal with the UK and the difficulties the negotiators are facing with only a matter of hours to go.
He told the Parliament that “We are at a moment of truth.”
He said “We have very little time left, a few useful hours in this negotiation, if we want this agreement to enter into force on January 1.
“As our President Ursula von der Leyen told you two days ago here, the possibility of an agreement is there, I think as a negotiator, but the road is very narrow.
“Now is the time to make decisions. It is also the moment for everyone to take responsibility.”
His speech also addressed the three key issues that he concluded were problems in the talks.
“Today I would like to recall three fundamental elements of this negotiation.
- It was the British who set this very short deadline to which we are now forced, by refusing in June any form of extension of the transition period.
- What it is about is an extraordinary negotiation, carried out in 9 months, as never we have had in the past – never – on so many subjects, which are at the heart of your resolutions and our mandate. Even if we regret that the British did not want to go further, through an agreement, which we were ready to negotiate, on foreign policy, defense and cooperation. It’s their choice. It takes two to negotiate and to reach an agreement. But we have nevertheless covered a considerable field. On virtually every subject, we have sought to establish new cooperation with the UK, in other forms, in a new framework, in areas where we have for 47 years worked and acted together under the Union. And that is why this partnership is unprecedented. Both by the time of negotiation – I would remind you that it took 4 or 5 years to negotiate an even more modest agreement with Canada, or with Japan – and by the scope of the subjects dealt with.
- Finally, in such an agreement, it is our mandate, it is your resolution, all the parties form a cohesive whole. There is no agreement on anything, as long as there is no agreement on everything. (“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”)
It is therefore not surprising that in the last hours when we find also concentrated the very great difficulties of the negotiation, the most difficult and hard points.”
Mr Barnier reiterated the EU respect for the UK’s sovereignty but at the same time, the respect should be reciprocal saying “We want open and ambitious trade and economic cooperation. But it must also be fair and equitable. Free and fair.”
On fisheries, one of the main sticking points of the talks Mr Barnier said:
“With regard to fishing, the United Kingdom also wishes to regain its sovereignty, to be able to control access to its waters. As I just said, we accept it and we respect it.
“But if the United Kingdom wants, after a period of credible and sufficient adjustment, to be able to cut off access to its waters at any time, the European Union must also have a sovereign right to react or to compensate.
“By then adjusting the conditions of access to its market for all products, and in particular for fishery products, and this is where one of the major current difficulties in negotiation is found.
“It would be neither fair nor acceptable for European fishermen to have only transitional rights in UK waters, which one day evaporated, while everything else in the deal – especially for UK companies – would remain stable. It would not be fair or just.”
Mr Barnier’s full speech can be read here.