/Barnier: EU ‘not really in a position’ to find Brexit agreement

Barnier: EU ‘not really in a position’ to find Brexit agreement

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

‘Brexit is something that is long term, it creates specific, serious problems, first and foremost in Ireland.’

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10/9/19, 5:18 PM CET

Updated 10/9/19, 5:19 PM CET

The EU is “not really in a position” where it can find agreement on a Brexit deal, Michel Barnier said.

Speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator rubbished Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit proposals and said they had led to “serious concerns” in the EU.

“To put things very frankly though and to try and be objective, at this particular point we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement,” Barnier said. He added that the U.K. proposals were merely a temporary way of avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

“I don’t think anyone in London or anywhere else should be surprised that the EU is committed to getting operational, legally sound and sustainable solutions in this agreement,” he told MEPs.

Barnier argued that the U.K.’s proposal for customs checks away from the border in Ireland hadn’t been fully developed or tested and were based on technology that is not, as yet, available. He said the alternatives proposed did not provide the same security as the backstop, and said Northern Ireland should not have the power to unilaterally withdraw from the arrangement, as envisaged in the plan from London.

“Brexit is something that is long term, it creates specific, serious problems, first and foremost in Ireland. What we need is operational, legally binding solutions, today not tomorrow,” he said.

Barnier’s strongly-worded rebuke cast further doubt on the prospect of a Brexit deal being agreed by October 31.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker struck a more conciliatory tone, telling MEPs: “We remain in discussion with the U.K. on the terms of its departure. Personally, I don’t exclude a deal.”

But he added: “We are not accepting this blame game which started in London. We are not to be blamed.”

Speaking on behalf of EU countries, Tytti Tuppurainen, the Finnish minister for European affairs, echoed Barnier’s concerns. She said the U.K.’s “proposals do not yet provide a basis for concluding an agreement.”

She said the EU remained “fully committed” to striking a Brexit deal but warned: “The U.K. crashing out is a dangerously realistic scenario.”

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