European Union tells Britain to "face up to hard facts" on Brexit

Pauline Gross
March 14, 2018

That frustration was reinforced by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who also told EU legislators that "there is increasing urgency to negotiate this orderly withdrawal".

"It's obvious that we need further clarity if we're going to reach an understanding on our future relationship", Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019 but is looking to agree a transition agreement for a period after Brexit in order to smooth out the impact.

Mr Junker said the European Union was ready to work with the United Kingdom on its preferred option of the Irish border issue being resolved in the future trade deal, or by other specific measures.

Britain, which played no formal role in drawing up the draft, objected to some of its contents, particularly a section on avoiding a hard Irish border which set out in detail proposals to keep Northern Ireland in a the EU's customs union.

The EU "will stand firm and united when it comes to Ireland", Juncker said at the start of the Brexit debate.

'If you decide to jettison, leave behind, the common agreements and rules, then you have to accept that things can not remain as they are'.

A series of speeches by May and her senior ministers have done little to satisfy Brussels, and Juncker warned it was particularly crucial for London to clarify its plans for the sensitive issue of the Irish border.

"The draft protocol on Ireland should not come as a surprise or a shock it translates last December's agreement into a legal text", Juncker said.

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He said that there were options on the table to do this and that these needed to be worked through.

The EU last week snubbed British Prime Minister Theresa May's calls for a special post-Brexit deal by offering London just a free-trade agreement with no special treatment for Britain's mighty financial sector.

European Parliament chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said: "After all the speeches we have heard now, it's time that we go beyond the slogans, the soundbites".

"Do they also want to distance themselves from our regulatory model, the one that we have constructed together with you - and you with us - for 44 years?"

The former Ukip leader later urged Theresa May to stand up to the "EU bullies", before making the outlandish claim that Britain could seal a trade deal with Donald Trump in 48.

German Christian democrat Elmar Brok, who sits on the assembly's Brexit steering committee, said it was "damage limitation".

He said: 'There was this Mansion House speech by Mrs May, but it was mainly repeating the red lines that we know already'.

"Ms May, we did not vote for a transition period, we voted to leave this organisation, we voted to leave the customs union, we voted to leave the single market", he said.

Other reports by GizPress

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