Fri Jul 20th, 2018 at 07:00:43 PM EST
Already in the past tense this message of Thursday ...
Continued below the fold ...
Barnier dismisses Theresa May's Brexit white paper demands | The Guardian |
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has forensically picked apart Theresa May's white paper after a meeting of the EU27, warning that the prime minister had failed to offer Brussels a firm basis for the negotiations.
In a reflection of the widespread concern about the stability of May's premiership, Barnier said he would be polite, but went on to illustrate in stark terms how the UK's demands fell foul of the EU's red lines and founding principles.
"I am not negotiating, of course, on the basis of the white paper," Barnier concluded, after a three-hour meeting of EU ministers in Brussels.
The bloc's negotiator also responded to May's strident rejection of the EU's solution for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, in which Northern Ireland would in effect stay in the customs union and single market until a trade deal or bespoke technological solution was arranged that could serve that function.
The prime minister had committed to solving the problem, Barnier said, and having checks on goods passing from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK was not the same as creating a border in the Irish Sea.
"We cannot afford to lose time on this issue," Barnier said, "and this is why we have invited the UK to work on the backstop next week ... We are working on the basis of what was agreed in March with Theresa May."
It was, however, in giving the EU's most detailed response yet to May's hard-fought-over Brexit white paper that Barnier was at his most damning, evoking concerns over smuggling, red tape and putting European companies at a competitive disadvantage
He suggested that the UK's position appeared far from settled. "This white paper is the result of a very intense debate in the United Kingdom that was necessary. Everyone can see that this debate is not over," he said.