- Francois Lenoir/Reuters
- The European Union is preparing for a scenario in which Brexit talks collapse.
- EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that negotiations failing is a “possibility.”
- Barnier insisted that the UK must increase its financial offer in order for talks to progress.
LONDON – The European Union is preparing for the collapse of Brexit talks and is making contingency plans, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.
Michel Barnier told French newspaper Journal du Dimanche that the failure of negotiations is a “possibility” but is not what he wants the outcome to be.
He said: “It’s a possibility. Everyone needs to plan for it, member states and businesses alike. We too are making technical preparations for it. On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will become a third country.”
Barnier told Britain last Friday that it has just two weeks to make its position clear on the Brexit divorce bill or face the possibility of a transition deal with the EU being blocked.
The chief negotiator said: “We want to reach an agreement [with the UK] within the next 14 working days. Today, we are not there. The rendezvous will be postponed if progress is not sufficient.”
EU leaders will meet at a summit in December to decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made in talks on the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and the Irish border in order to allow negotiations to move onto the next stage.
Barnier told the JDD that the UK must increase it’s financial offer for the so-called “divorce bill” if they expect sufficient progress to be made. The EU reportedly expects a settlement of around €60 billion (£53 billion).
He warned that Brexit talks failing would have “consequences in multiple areas,” including “the capacity of British planes to land in Europe to that of dogs and cats to cross the Channel.”
If the Britain fails to agree on a transition or trade deal with the EU it would be forced to revert to World Trade Organisation terms, which Barnier said would make UK-EU trading relations “like those we have with China.”
Barnier also told the French newspaper that the option of Britain still staying in the customs union was still open, and would be the only way the UK could guarantee frictionless trade.
He said: “That is an option that is still possible for us, but Theresa May’s government prefers to leave the single market and the customs union and rely on a trade agreement.”
It was reported on Monday that the UK is preparing for continued negotiations about a future relationship after Brexit.