Michel Barnier accuses Britain of 'nostalgia' for benefits of EU membership in frosty press conference

  • 'No decisive progress' on key issues, warns Barnier

  • Barnier: I am not angry, but the clock is ticking

  • Davis told 'you cannot control single market from outside EU'

  • Davis denies he is 'nostalgic' for EU benefits

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, accused Britain of being "nostalgic" for benefits of EU membership such as being in the single market, as the third round of talks ended in Brussels on Thursday. 

Mr Barnier said a number of "useful clarifications" were made this week, such as on the status of border workers, social security rights and also dealing with pending cases in the European Court of Justice. 

But he warned there has been "no decisive progress on the principal subjects."

The French negotiator, who hails from the mountainous region of Savoie, also denied that he has appeared angry during the talks so far. 

"I am not angry, I am determined," he said, insisting he was "calm like a mountaineer."

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis (R) and Michel Barnier (C),

And in a move that is likely to frustrate the British government, Mr Barnier accused Mr Davis of trying to leave the single market and continue to enjoy its benefits at the same time. 

"I see a certain nostalgia in some requests from the UK which amount to enjoying the benefits of the single market," said Mr Barnier. 

"But Brexit means Brexit, leaving the single market means leaving the single market," he added, dismissing the notion that Britain could cut and paste EU standards into British law, in the interest of keeping trade flowing. 

This prompted the Brexit secretary to brusquely reply:  "I wouldn't confuse a belief in the free market for nostalgia."

It comes after EU Brexit negotiators were left “flabbergasted” on Wednesday after their British counterparts launched a legal deconstruction of the so-called “Brexit bill” yesterday as the Brussels talks headed for an increasingly acrimonious impasse.

The British side spent three hours launching a painstaking, line-by-line rebuttal of the EU’s demands for €100bn divorce settlement to the barely concealed fury of EU negotiators.

David Davis, left, and Michel Barnier

"There was total amazement,” the EU source said, “Everyone was completely flabbergasted that this young man from Whitehall was saying that the EU's preparation on the financial settlement was 'inadequate'. It did not go down well."

The “intense” exchanges were the first time the two sides have butted heads over the details of the divorce bill and sets up what is expected to be a frosty joint press conference today between David Davis, the Brexit Secretary and Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator.


Barnier: We can be flexible, but the principles must be agreed first 

Mr Barnier has just been given a grilling from one of our colleagues at the Sun, 

He is asked why the EU is being so inflexible and is that indeed stalling the talks. He asks why on earth Tony Blair has appeared for a meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker on the same day as today's press conference, and is that the EU seeking to undermine the government. 

Mr Barnier responds: "I said early on that the time tabling was short. We must agree on the principles of the big topics. I have been asked for flexibility, but you must start first with a clear position based on what the UK recognises as their legal and moral commitments. "

"All I can say is there has been a lack of progress, but a strong commitment from the UK to find a solution, We need to do that."

On the issue of imagination, Mr Barnier says "Everything is possible. But we have to find a solution where I can go back to the EU 27 and reassure them and then go forward."

He does not address the Tony Blair issue. 


Davis strikes back - 'don't confuse free market with nostalgia'

Mr Davis gives Mr Barnier a withering glance, and says: "I wouldn't confuse a belief in the free market for nostalgia."


Barnier claims UK trying to cling on to single market benefits

"I see a certain nostalgia in some requests from the UK which amount to enjoying the benefits of the single market," says Mr Barnier. 

"But Brexit means Brexit, leaving the single market means leaving the single market."


I am calm like a mountaineer, says Barnier

Asked  by a reporter why he is so angry all the time, Mr Barnier says "I am not angry, I am determined. 

"I am calm like a mountaineer. If I ever truly get angry, you will notice it."


"Our aim is clear, how we get there is less certain" - Barnier

Mr Davis says: "Michel referred to the issue of time. I have said from the beginning that some parts of this will be hard, because there are difference of view. But both sides, and this is very apparent this week, aim to get an outcome in the benefit of both the European Union and the United Kingdom."

Yet again he pushes for a more flexible approach to the talks where trade and the exit process can be discussed together, rather than one strictly before the other. 

He is then asked by a reporter about his approach of "constructive ambiguity," - a stance criticised by Mr Barnier. 

Mr Davis responds: "As I said, the papers don't always say this is one route to go. There is always one, two or three options. That gets us into trouble sometimes, being that open. But our intentions are crystal clear. How we get there is less certain."



We are more flexible than you, Davis tells Barnier

"We have a duty to interrogate rigorously" the financial settlement, adds Mr Davis. 

He says it is clear that there are "significant differences" to be bridged, though there has been good progress on Northern Ireland this week. 

He says there is a "high degree of convergence" on that key issue, and  a handful of others. 

"We have reached almost complete agreement on confidentiality requirements," he adds. 

As for Euratom, there has been some progress with more expected in the next round, he says.  

"Our approach is more flexible and pragmatic than the EU" he says, in a dig at Mr Barnier. 


David Davis - exit process and trade 'inextricably linked'

"Issues around our withdrawal and our future relationship are inextricably linked," says Mr Davis. 

He is referring to the EU's insistence that the three key issues of citizens rights, Ireland and the bill are partially agreed upon before the talks can move on to trade. This has been a major headache for the UK side. 

Mr Davis admits the talks have been "stressful" and that hard thinking and detailed thinking have been required on both sides. 


"Time is flying," warns Barnier (again)

"I always said this would not be easy. And that Brexit would have consequences," Mr Barnier adds.

"Now over the last few days I have seen there is a lot of commitment on both sides. But time is flying. On our side, we are prepared to step up and intensify the rhythm of the negotiations."

He then hands the floor over to David Davis. 


Barnier: UK thinks it is not legally obliged to pay Brexit bill

Mr Barnier is now addressing the issue of the financial settlement.

EU taxpayers should not take on the obligations of 27 member states when they were agreed by 28 member states, adds Mr Barnier. 

He says the EU has guaranteed, for example, long term loans to Ukraine through the EU development fund, and that the UK

"It is clear the UK does not feel legally obliged to honour these obligations," he says. 



Barnier: UK expectations on single market 'impossible' 

Switching into English, Mr Barnier says protecting the integrity of the single market is a core principle of his mandate. 

Mr Barnier says he respects the sovereign decision of the UK to leave, but adds that it is clear that the single market's ability to enforce EU law "must not be undermined by Brexit."

"The UK understands very well how it [the single market] works," he says. 

"The UK wants to take back control, adopt its own standards and regulations. Well, it also wants these standards recognised automatically in the EU. This is simply impossible."

The British government has said the UK will leave both the single market and the EU customs union when it quits the bloc in March 2019. 

Barnier suggests Britain hasn't requested a transition period yet ("if the UK should so request...")

— Asa Bennett (@asabenn) August 31, 2017



Barnier: Don't underestimate European Parliament 

Mr Barnier says the European Commission is working on an "unprecedented" negotiation on the basis of a mandate fixed by the 27 heads of EU governments. 

"Please don't underestimate the role of the European parliament," he adds, referring to the fact that the parliament will have a veto on the final deal. 

He also warns that at this stage of the negotiations they seem far off making "sufficient progress" by October - the point at which it is hoped the talks will move on to trade. 




'No decisive progress on principal subjects' says Barnier

Mr Barnier says a number of "useful clarifications" were made this week, on the status of border workers, social security rights and also dealing with pending cases in the European Court of Justice. 

However, he says there has been "no decisive progress on the principal subjects."

We're on - Barnier starts by saying time is short; will we have an exit deal by March 29, 2019 or will the UK leave without a deal? he asks

— Paris Gourtsoyannis (@thistlejohn) August 31, 2017



They've arrived -Barnier is first up

"We have ended the third round, and I'd like to thank those two teams," says Mr Barnier. He praises their competence and deep commitment. 

He said he was initially concerned when they met on Monday. As time is "passing quickly" and was short to start with. 

"With every passing day we move closer to the date of departure for the UK," he warns. 


As Davis squares up to Barnier, Blair meets Juncker

Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, has taken the rather audacious decision to meet with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, on the closing day of the Brexit talks. 

In a brief photo call on Thursday morning, Mr Blair shook hands with Mr Juncker and accepted a kiss on the cheek. He was immediately accused of trying to upstage Mr Davis. 

 Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is welcomed by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker

Mr Blair has been dubbed the "Remainiac-in-chief" due to his staunch opposition to Brexit and his vow to overturn the June 2016 referendum.