Brussels, Oct. 9 (PTI/AFP): The European Union cannot accept Britain’s latest proposal for a Brexit accord and is not close to finding a compromise, Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Wednesday.
“As I speak to you now, we’re not on the point of envisioning and finding a deal,” he told the European Parliament, playing down hopes of a breakthrough before next week’s EU summit.
Barnier will meet British Brexit minister Stephen Barclay on Thursday for a working lunch, and he promised that his team would be available 24/7 in the run-up to the October 17 and 18 summit.
But he made it clear that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s draft agreement to replace a previous Brexit deal that was rejected by the British parliament cannot serve as a basis for negotiations.
He said Johnson’s plans for cross-border trade on the island of Ireland would undermine peace and weaken the European single market — and is based on untested technology and as yet unwritten legal arrangements.
“The British government’s proposal, in its current state and which we cannot accept, would replace a practical, operational and legal solution with a solution that is hypothetical and provisional,” he said.
European officials have said they would need a draft treaty in more of less its final legal wording by Friday if it is to be ready in time for EU leaders to approve it at the summit.
And if nothing is approved by the EU leaders and by both the Westminster and European parliaments before October 31, then Britain risks crashing out of the European Union without a deal.