The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that the UK would have till October 2018 to reach a deal with the remaining EU27. He reiterated that the two-year schedule for talks set out by Article 50 did not leave time for a broader negotiation on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, adding that “the sooner the better”. Mr Barnier also concluded that “time will be short. It’s clear that the period of actual negotiation will be shorter than 2 years,” thus suggesting that if London keeps to the plan to trigger Article 50 in March next year, an agreement will need to be reached by October 2018 to allow time for all stakeholders to ratify the deal.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator also repeated that London would not be allowed to “cherry-pick” regarding the rights and obligations that it would like to keep after leaving the block. Mr Barnier stressed that “being a member of the European Union comes with rights and benefits. Third countries can never have the same rights and benefits since they are not subject to the same obligations.” British negotiators have come to terms with the fact that their country would have fewer rights while they still want to achieve maximum possible access for British goods to the EU’s giant free trade zone.
However, Mr Barnier also pointed out that it was not legally possible for Brussels to negotiate a “new partnership” agreement with the UK – covering trade, foreign policy and other broader issues – before the basic talks on the UK’s withdrawal are finalized. The EU is generally expected to demand up to 60 billion euros from the UK to cover various EU budgetary commitments as well as narrow technical and legal issues to allow the country to leave. Only after the financials are settled, the EU will consider further negotiations. This contradicts the wishes of the British negotiators who would like to negotiate both agreements in parallel.