Michel Barnier Urges ‘Renewed European Unity’ In 2018 As Brexit Trade Talks Loom

Michel Barnier Urges ‘Renewed European Unity’ In 2018 As Brexit Trade Talks Loom

Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator has called for “renewed European unity, solidarity and direction” in the coming year which will see trade talks begin with the UK.

Michel Barnier acknowledged that 2017 had “its share of challenges” and echoed a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in a Twitter message looking ahead to the next 12 months.

The European Union’s 27 other leaders have remained united during the first phase of the Brexit talks, but that bond could be tested as the bloc considers what kind of trading terms are on offer to the UK – an important export market for many member states.

Mr Barnier said: “Best wishes to all, close or far away, for the New Year.

“2017 had its share of challenges, but also of progress. 2018 will require renewed European unity, solidarity and direction.

“In the words of Shakespeare, it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves!”

Mr Barnier’s comment appears to be a reference to a line by Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Ahead of the next phase of the Brexit process, Theresa May has been warned that business chiefs’ patience is “wearing thin” and Westminster must get to grips with the challenge.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general Adam Marshall said firms want clarity and results from the Government and suggested industry was dismayed by “division and disorganisation” across Westminster.

The BCC represents firms employing more than five million people across the country and Mr Marshall is the latest senior business figure to demand a clearer picture of what a Brexit deal will involve.

“Some very big decisions lie ahead,” Mr Marshall told The Observer.

“Getting the twin challenges of Brexit and the economic fundamentals right will require leadership, consistency and clarity – after a year in which business has been dismayed by what it sees as division and disorganisation across Westminster.”

He added: “Businesses have been very patient in waiting for clarity on Brexit in the 18 months since the referendum.

“That patience is now wearing thin. Businesses want answers, they want clarity and they want results.”

The BCC, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Institute of Directors (IoD) and EEF, which represents manufacturers, have all called for the terms of a transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 to be agreed as soon as possible, to give firms time to plan for the new relationship with Brussels.

The longer the process drags on, the less value a transitional deal will have as firms will already have been forced to implement contingency plans which could see them shift work and jobs to one of the 27 other EU states.


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