Barnier calls for Brexit progress

Ne­go­tia­tors wres­tle with sta­tus of the Ire­land-UK bor­der after Bri­tain leaves bloc in March

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Gabriela Baczynska Brus­sels

The EU’s Brexit ne­go­tia­tor, Michel Barnier, called for “de­ci­sive progress” on Wed­nes­day in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bri­tain in time for a sum­mit of all 28 EU na­tion lead­ers next week.

The EU’s Brexit ne­go­tia­tor, Michel Barnier, called for “de­ci­sive progress” on Wed­nes­day in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bri­tain in time for a sum­mit of all 28 EU na­tion lead­ers next week.

Brexit ne­go­tia­tors from both sides have been locked in in­tense dis­cus­sions this week, try­ing to over­come dif­fer­ences on the big­gest out­stand­ing hur­dle to a Brexit deal — how to keep the Ire­land-UK bor­der open after Bri­tain leaves the bloc in March.

Speak­ing after Barnier briefed the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, spokesper­son Mar­gari­tis Schi­nas said: “He re­called that de­ci­sive progress must be made in time for the Oc­to­ber Euro­pean Coun­cil next week and ne­go­ti­a­tions at the tech­ni­cal level will con­tinue this week.”

The 27 EU states will get an up­date at a meet­ing of na­tional am­bas­sadors, with­out Bri­tain, on Fri­day evening.

The sides will con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions through the week­end with hopes for a break­through as early as Mon­day.

The 27 EU lead­ers meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 17 and 18 in Brus­sels want to be able to an­nounce de­ci­sive progress on the Brexit deal to agree to hold an­other sum­mit in Novem­ber.

That sum­mit would be aimed at fi­nal­is­ing work on a dec­la­ra­tion of close fu­ture ties with Bri­tain that would also be part of the Brexit pack­age.

“Barnier and his team are work­ing day and night to reach a deal, but we are not there yet,” EU mi­gra­tion com­mis­sioner Dim­itris Avramopou­los said.

In a sign of progress, diplo­mats in Brus­sels said the EU no longer ex­pected a new pro­posal from Bri­tain for the Ire­land-UK bor­der fix after Brexit as ne­go­tia­tors from both sides were seek­ing to agree on it in talks. The 27 states that will re­main in the bloc pre­vi­ously in­sisted Lon­don presents for­mal new pro­pos­als for the bor­der in writ­ing.

The is­sue of how to avoid ex­ten­sive checks at the bor­der be­tween EU state Ire­land and the British prov­ince of North­ern Ire­land, Bri­tain’s only land fron­tier, after Brexit is the last hur­dle, with nearly ev­ery­thing else in the with­drawal agree­ment agreed be­fore Bri­tain leaves in March 2019.

Both the EU and Bri­tain have sig­nalled progress in re­cent days, boost­ing the sen­ti­ment in mar­kets, which fear the most dam­ag­ing no-deal Brexit.

“My feel­ing is that there is a smaller prob­a­bil­ity for lack of a deal now than we have had for some time,” Danuta Hüb­ner, a Euro­pean Par­lia­ment leg­is­la­tor who is deal­ing with Brexit, told a com­mit­tee.

The com­mis­sion, how­ever, also looked at prepa­ra­tions among the 27 states for a no-deal sce­nario on Wed­nes­day, dis­cussing a doc­u­ment that lays out the mul­ti­ple dis­rup­tions that would en­sue in that case, in­clud­ing cus­toms checks and du­ties kick­ing in im­me­di­ately on all im­ports and ex­ports be­tween the EU and Bri­tain.

While some in the com­mis­sion wanted to pub­lish the doc­u­ment, the Brexit ne­go­tia­tors feared it would up­set Bri­tain and could hurt the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We are work­ing hard for the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions to suc­ceed. But since we can’t guar­an­tee the re­sult right now, we have to pre­pare for all pos­si­ble out­comes,” one diplo­mat said.

“There is a grow­ing sense among the EU27 that out­stand­ing pre­pared­ness ques­tions have to be ad­dressed very quickly and in a de­tailed way …. The EU27 need to be ready on day one to ad­dress is­sues like ci­ti­zens’ rights, trans­port or cus­toms co­her­ently.”

Avramopou­los also said the bloc’s no-deal con­tin­gency plans on se­cu­rity were driven by “good­will”.

He stressed that the bloc would want to con­tinue co­op­er­at­ing with Bri­tain closely, in­clud­ing on shar­ing in­tel­li­gence.

THERE IS A GROW­ING SENSE AMONG EU27 THAT OUT­STAND­ING PRE­PARED­NESS QUES­TIONS HAVE TO BE AD­DRESSED VERY QUICKLY

/Reuters

Elu­sive: Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit ne­go­tia­tor, and his team are work­ing hard to reach a deal, but it re­mains elu­sive.

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