The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that while the bloc would love to strike a meaningful deal with the United Kingdom before it actually leaves the EU, not enough progress is being made in key areas of the discussion.
A considerable amount could change before a Withdrawal Agreement is finalised, but Barnier and his team are preparing for a worst-case scenario now.
“Let me recall that the Withdrawal Agreement is the prerequisite for an orderly withdrawal, for the transition period, and for creating the trust that we need to build a solid partnership for the future,” said Barnier, following his meeting with Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.
“This requires in particular a legally operative backstop – an ‘all-weather insurance policy’ – to address the issues of Ireland and Northern Ireland. All 27 Member States insist on this.
“Why? Because we are committed to protecting Ireland and Northern Ireland against the consequences of Brexit and to preserve the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions. I said this on my last visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland a few weeks ago, where I engaged with stakeholders across both communities.
“And I made clear to Dominic Raab yesterday that we are not asking for a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. What we need is checks on goods because the UK wants to leave the Single Market, the Customs Union and our common commercial policy.
“We cannot afford to lose time on this issue. And this is why we have invited the UK to work on the backstop next week. We are open to any solutions as long as they are workable and can be transformed into a legally operative text in time for the Withdrawal Agreement.”
However, as they’ve attempte to make clear many times before, the EU is not going to compromise on the integrity of the institution.
“Even if we want to reach a deal, it is also our responsibility to be prepared for all scenarios, including a ‘no deal’. As the European Council said, we have to step up preparation at all levels, for all scenarios,” added Raab.
“And the Communication adopted by the Commission yesterday should be read in this context. We are encouraging national administrations and companies to use the time we have, which is very short, to accelerate this preparation.”