EU chief negotiator unveils plan for Britain
BRUSSELS: The European Union’s point-man on Brexit urged Britain to work tirelessly to conclude negotiations on leaving the bloc, warning yesterday that time is running out to seal a deal by 2019.
Unveiling his mandate for the talks on Britain’s departure, Michel Barnier said that in the coming months he would focus on tackling three issues: The future of some five million citizens affected by the move; London's financial debts, which could climb to as much as €100 billion (RM471 billion) according to reports; and border issues with Ireland.
It’s the first time a member has ever left the EU, so these negotiations are taking the Europeans into unchartered waters. The process is unprecedented and complicated, and combined with snap elections in Britain, have ratcheted tensions between Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and the 27 nations that will remain in the EU.
Barnier, a former French government minister, said here that “the United Kingdom must put a great deal of energy and effort” into the talks, which can only start in earnest once a new government is formed in London. He suggested that the parties would have 16 months to negotiate, leaving time for respective parliaments to endorse any accord.
“Time is short, very short. Days are going by,” he said.
Barnier insisted he was not hostile to Britain and that the talks were not “punishment”, saying that “we have to settle the account, not more not less”.
He underlined that Britain and its EU partners had together agreed the bloc’s long-term budget, running from 2014 to 2020, and that Britain must pay up its share of contributions.
“Engagements were undertaken and they have to be honored. It's a question of responsibility.”
Barnier did not specify how much Britain should pay, but the British government minister charged with overseeing the withdrawal rejected the notion that Britain will be forced to pay a reported bill of €100 billion. AP