BRUSSELS – The European Union’s chief negotiator for the Brexit process put on Tuesday the onus for a serious lack of progress in talks firmly on the United Kingdom, while a prominent pro-Brexit government minister in London said any form of future customs deal with the bloc would betray those who voted to leave.
Michel Barnier told a press briefing in Brussels that there had been little to no progress in the Brexit talks with his counterpart David Davis since December and warned that time to secure a deal on the country’s withdrawal was running out.
“The clock is ticking, time is passing, time presses. I am very worried because we have such a short amount of time,” Barnier said, adding that a final deal on the conditions of the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU was due to be finalized by fall.
He dismissed rumors that UK ministers were planning to propose an elongated or open-ended transition period as impossible, and said EU officials had already clearly outlined what that transition would consist of.
It would end as planned on Dec. 31, 2020, in time for the EU budget, and during that time the UK would adhere to the rules of being a member of the single market and customs union as well as remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, he reiterated.
The EU would not allow the UK to cherry pick perks that come with being a member state, Barnier said.
Meanwhile, at a speech at Bloomberg’s London office, the UK’s international trade secretary, Liam Fox, an outspoken supporter of Brexit in the Conservative Party, said remaining in any form of a customs union with the EU would be detrimental to the country trade prospects with other world economies.
“The inevitable price of trying to negotiate with one arm tied behind our back is that we would become less attractive to potential trade partners and forfeit many of the opportunities that would otherwise be available to us,” he said.
The address came just one day after the opposition Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, outlined his own proposal for Brexit, which included renegotiating a customs deal with the EU.
Ahead of his speech, Fox was criticized by Sir Martin Donnely, a civil servant and former permanent secretary at his ministry of international trade who in an interview on BBC morning radio described the MP for North Somerset’s plan as like giving up a three-course meal for a packet of potato chips.
Fox later commented that Donnely was stuck in the past.