Brexit: Michel Barnier Gives Update on Ongoing Negotiations – 21 September

Speech by Michel Barnier in front of the Committees of Foreign Affairs and the Committees of European Affairs of the Italian Parliament


Members of Parliament,

I am happy to be here to give you an update on the ongoing negotiations.

At midnight on 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and will become a third country. This is the UK’s sovereign decision. It must be respected.

The question facing us over the coming months is serious, but simple: will the United Kingdom leave in an orderly fashion with an agreement, or not?

From our side, I repeat once again that an agreement is the best outcome. It is in our common interest.

But if we want a deal, time is of the essence. The Treaty on European Union foresees a period of two years to negotiate withdrawal.

  • 6 months have gone by since Theresa May’s letter on 29 March 2017.
  • 6 months will be necessary to allow for ratification before 29 March 2019.

There is therefore only one year left:

  • To swiftly reach an agreement on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal and to provide certainty where Brexit has created uncertainty: for citizens, for beneficiaries of EU programmes, for the new borders, particularly in Ireland.
  • To subsequently define the length and precise conditions of a short transition period, if the British government requests one.
  • To begin scoping our future relationship, in parallel to the finalisation of the withdrawal agreement.

The sooner we make real “sufficient progress” on the conditions of the UK’s withdrawal, the sooner we can begin discussing our future partnership.

This was the approach set out unanimously by the European Council on 29 April in its guidelines. Above all, this approach is an essential condition for the success of these negotiations.

  • Putting things in the right order is the best way to deal with the uncertainty created by Brexit, and the best way to create the necessary trust between us for our ambitious future relationship.
  • If we didn’t do this, and allowed the uncertainty to continue, and pushed these difficult subjects to the end of the negotiations, then we would run the risk of failure in the absence of trust between us.

Read speech in full here

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