The EU’s Chief Negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, stated on Sunday that he is “preparing” for the “possibility” that no agreement will be reached with the British government. He stresses that he does not himself favour this.
Speaking in an interview with the French weekly newspaper, Journal du Dimanche, he said, “This would not be my choice, which will restore the position we had 44 years ago (the date when the United Kingdom first came into the EU [then the EEC], editor’s note). However, it remains a strong possibility.” He added, “Everyone should be prepared for this – EU states and businesses. Within Brussels and the EU institutions, we are already making technical preparations for such an eventuality.”
If no agreement is reached, come March 29th, 2019, Barnier warned that when leaving the EU the United Kingdom will become subject to “World Trade Organisation rules, entailing a similar relationship to that which [the EU has] with China.”
On Friday, the EU gave the British government two weeks to clarify which agreements it wishes to be bound by, under the terms of the divorce. The EU negotiating team are making this a condition to accept the opening of trade negotiations. The British government is currently insisting upon these to prepare for the post-Brexit period. Mr Barnier, in his EU negotiator capacity, stressed, “We wish to reach an agreement by the end of the next fifteen working days. This is in view of the European Council, which is due to take place on December 14th and 15th.” He concluded by hammering out, “Up to now, we absolutely have not done so.”