Michel Barnier warns Theresa May the EU 'will not wait' for a new free trade deal with Britain

  • The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator says Brussels has priorities other than Britain when it comes to trade.
  • The EU will not “wait” for Britain to strike a new free trade deal, Michel Barnier says in a speech.
  • Barnier tells Brexiteers to come up with a solution for the Irish border issue.

LONDON — Michel Barnier has warned UK government that the European Union “will not wait” for Britain to make its position clear on what sort of future free trade arrangement it wants with the bloc.

Speaking at the Centre for European Reform on Monday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said an ambitious free trade agreement (FTA) with Britain is “possible” but warned that Brussels had priorities other than the UK.

“The EU will, of course, be ready to offer its most ambitious FTA approach and a future partnership should not be limited to trade,” Barnier said this morning.

“It should be based on our common values. We need to work together to protect the security of our citizens, to combat crime and terrorism, and logically we’ll need to cooperate and foreign defence challenges.

“But in none of these fields will the EU wait for the UK. We must continue to advance. We will continue creating new free trade agreements in addition to the ones we already have with 60 countries.

“We will continue to work on our internal market and make it for digitalisation. We will step up our investment in research and innovation. And we’ll continue to use the strength of the internal market to shape globalisation.”

Barnier covered a range of issues relating to Britain’s departure from the EU as Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly prepares a £40 billion financial settlement offer, which she hopes will break the deadlock in talks.

The EU’s head Brexit co-ordinator said he “regrets” how the no-deal option comes up “so often” in UK debate, adding that a no deal Brexit “cannot be a positive outcome” for either side.

Brexiteers “must offer” Northern Ireland solution

Barnier also urged the British side to propose a workable means of avoiding the return of a hard border to Northern Ireland.

“The UK said it will continue to apply EU laws on its territories — but not all rules. It’s therefore unclear what rules will apply to Northern Ireland after Brexit and what UK is willing to commit to avoid a hard border.

“Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions.”

Barnier also reiterated the EU’s desire to preserve the integrity of the single market and shot down suggestions that Britain could enjoy parts of membership without being a full participant.

“Those who say Britain can enjoy parts of the single market must stop this contradiction,” he said.

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