Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has warned a transition period for the UK after Brexit in March 2019 is “not a given”.
Speaking in Brussels on Friday, Barnier also said the UK’s decision to leave the EU single market and customs union will mean Northern Ireland border checks are “unavoidable”.
In a swipe at Brexit secretary David Davis, Barnier added he had not been in the least bit “discourteous or vindictive” during the negotiations.
The UK has asked for a transition period expected to last from 29 March 2019 to roughly December 2020.
Barnier confirmed today that the UK would be expected to “accept all the rules and the obligations” of single market access until the end of transition “including any new rules or decisions that might emerge during that period”.
And he warned “the transition is not a given” if arguments within the British government over what it wanted continued.
The UK wants the right to object to any EU rules created during the transition period.
Brexiteer Tories, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, have said otherwise the UK will be left as a “vassal state” of the EU.
Barnier said on Friday: “The time has come to make the choices. The sooner the UK makes its choices the better.
He added: “I have some problems understanding the UK’s position. It is the UK that asked for this period.”
Both the UK and EU have said they do not want to see a so-called hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland amid fears it would endanger the peace process.
However, Barnier said it was “important to tell the truth” that if the UK decides to leave the single market and the customs union border checks would be “unavoidable”.
“The UK has committed to proposing specific solutions to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland - we are waiting for such solutions,” he said.
Barnier added the proposals needed to be “precise, clear and unambiguous”.
Davis last night said the EU was being “discourteous” after a leaked memo revealed Brussels would consider cutting the Britain’s access to the single market during transition if the UK broke any rules.
But Barnier said today it was “quite usual” for the UK to “accept all the rules and the obligations” of single market access “until the end of transition”.
“Throughout these negotiations, my attitude has not been in the least discourteous or vindictive. We don’t wish to punish the UK. It’s totally foreign to my state of mind,” he said.