May playing ‘hide and seek’ in Brexit talks, Barnier says

Theresa May has been accused of playing “hide and seek” in the Brexit talks and attempting to pin the blame for the damaging consequences on Brussels, in a damning speech by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

After a fraught week of negotiations, during which the UK declined to spell out its proposed solution for avoiding a hard border with Ireland or offer positions on a range of crucial issues, Barnier gave a withering assessment of the prime minister’s approach.

He suggested that the UK was seeking to blame the EU for the problems that have emerged in recent days, from the shutting out of British firms from the £8bn Galileo satellite project to the rejection of the UK’s proposed retention of the powers of the European arrest warrant and continued say in the shaping of data laws.

But the former French minister told a conference of lawyers in Portugal on Saturday that the UK now needed to offer a “realistic” vision of the future and own up to the consequences of its own decisions.

The speed of the talks needed to be accelerated, Barnier said, adding that without a solution to the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic there would be no overall deal or a transition period to shield UK companies from a cliff-edge Brexit on 29 March 2019.

“If the United Kingdom would like to change its own red lines, it will have to tell us. The earliest would be best,” he said.

“And, of course, we are open. There is no ideology or dogmatism on our part. The European council has made it clear that the UK can change its mind. We simply ask for clarity.



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