EU chief ne­go­tia­tor un­veils plan for Bri­tain

New Straits Times - - World -

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

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