Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Brexit: EU negotiator stands firm on citizen's rights

I'm not hearing any whistling just the clock ticking' says the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier I'm not hearing any whistling just the clock ticking' says the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. AP
Sammy Stanley | 13 July, 2017, 01:17

Barnier said: "I am not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking" towards the March 2019 date for Britain to become a third-party state.

The Foreign Secretary has found himself in hot water after he said the European Union could "go whistle" over demands for a so-called Brexit divorce bill.

Asked by Liberal Democrat peer Alison Suttie what steps he had taken to ensure that the interests of the island of Ireland would be protected after Brexit, Mr Davis said technical work had started on making customs controls on the Border as unobtrusive as possible.

Mr Barnier is to be congratulated on his little bon mot - the man knows how to deliver a line - but that doesn't mean his version.

He further said that there were many differences with Britain including citizens' rights that need to be sorted out before talks on a trade deal could start.

Johnson made the remarks during questions to Foreign Office ministers in the House of Commons, and also said that "there is no plan for no deal".

"It is not a ransom, it's not an exit bill, it's not punishment, not a revenge, it is simply settling accounts - any separation needs settling accounts", he added.

Until now, it had been thought that European Union leaders would be satisfied provided Theresa May - if she survives in office - set out the UK's detailed position at a summit in October.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and UK Prime MInister Theresa May
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and UK Prime MInister Theresa May. Thierry Charlier

Verhofstadt has already threatened to veto the final Brexit deal if citizens rights are not maintained but on Wednesday he opened a new front that could complicate efforts by Davis and Barnier to at least reach a temporary compromise on this opening issue. In a message released Wednesday, the London MEP said: "If Mr Barnier wants to talk about who owes who money he is in for a nasty surprise."Since 1973 The UK has made gross contributions to the EU Budget of over half a trillion pounds, or net contributions of nearly £185 billion".

"Because oversight of Euratom is part of the European Union, part of budget and so on", said the former Belgian prime minister, who was appointed the EU parliament's Brexit representative previous year.

However, he stressed that he will only negotiate with the UK Government - not with opposition politicians.

British exporters would face total tariffs of around £5.2 billion, but tariffs on European Union imports would raise a much larger £12.9 billion, and they could be compensated through a combination of research grants, subsidies, and general tax cuts.

"Progress on one or two of these subjects would not be enough to let us proceed to the discussion of our future relationship with the United Kingdom".

The two sides have sparred over the issue, with EU lawmakers accusing Britain of planning to give Europeans in Britain "second-class status".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Foreign Secretary of arrogance and peers raised worries over how his comments will be received in the rest of the bloc.

During Prime Minister's Questions, with both PM Theresa May and Corbyn stepping aside, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry repeatedly pushed May's de facto deputy Damian Green over what would happen if there was no deal with the EU.

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