Britain has two weeks to make concessions in Brexit negotiations if it wants to open trade talks by the end of the year, the European Commission’s chief negotiator has said.
Michel Barnier told reporters in Brussels that talks on trade would be “put back” again if Britain’s position did not move in the fortnight.
Any further delay in meeting the EU’s demands would mean “sufficient progress” to move to the next stage of talks would not be granted at the European Council summit scheduled for December, he suggested.
A failure to meet the milestone at the meeting, following a failure to do so at the previous October summit, could seriously jeopardise the Brexit timetable and steeply increase the likelihood of ‘no deal’. The next opportunity to make sufficient progress would be in March 2018, leaving very little time for the rest of the negotiations to take place.
“I have to present a sincere and real picture to those three subjects to the European Council and the European Parliament. If that’s not the case then we will continue and that will put back the opening on discussions of the future,” Mr Barnier said.
“That includes the transition, because that does relate to the future, because it would start on the 30 March, after the actual exiting of the United Kingdom, and our future relations and the long term partnership that we wish to agree on with the United Kingdom.”
Asked whether the UK only had two weeks to make progress before the December meeting, Mr Barnier said simply: “My answer is yes.”
There was no major breakthrough in the short round of talks held on Thursday and Friday this week, with Mr Barnier warning that the public “should not expect, from us at the stage where we are today, any announcements or decisions” despite some small new agreement on EU citizens’ rights.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said the two-day round of talks had “enabled us to consolidate the progress of earlier negotiating rounds and to draw out those areas where…