Barnier warns Britain to stop playing ‘hide and seek’ on Brexit

David Davis accuses EU of ‘public posturing’ that puts citizens’ security at risk

“It is the UK that leaves the EU. Britain cannot, on leaving, ask us to change who we are and how we operate”

“It is the UK that leaves the EU. Britain cannot, on leaving, ask us to change who we are and how we operate”


The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has called on Britain to stop playing “hide and seek” and decide on a realistic exit policy as the two sides traded barbs over the blame for stalled talks.

Michel Barnier’s blunt remarks came in a speech in Portugal on Saturday, hours after his British counterpart David Davis accused the EU of “public posturing” that was putting the security of citizens at risk.

The pointed exchanges reflect the bad feeling in London and Brussels after a difficult week of talks over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Mr Barnier said Britain must “look the reality of the EU in the face” and refrain from suggesting more models of co-operation that recreate the advantages of a shared regulatory system from the outside.

“I can see the temptation of a blame game to pin the negative consequences of Brexit on the EU. But we will not be cowed,” he said. “It is the UK that leaves the EU. Britain cannot, on leaving, ask us to change who we are and how we operate.

“We ask for clarity because to negotiate effectively you must know what the other party wants. A negotiation cannot be part of a hide and seek...the UK must accept the consequences of its own decision [to leave], explain them and assume them.”

‘Serious papers’

It followed Brexit secretary Mr Davis hitting out at the EU trying to “score points” rather than engage with “serious papers” from the UK that sought to address shared interests.

“Our proposals on security, for example, are not about bending rules or ‘membership-light’: they are about protecting people – nothing more, nothing less. We face the same threats and have shared values. Criminals and terrorists do not respect borders.”

Mr Barnier’s comments came in a speech focused on dispute settlement arrangements for the exit treaty – a highly sensitive issue for Brexiters since it relates to the future influence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Britain.

Warning that the need to make progress on a governance arrangement was “urgent”, Mr Barnier rejected British proposals for a political joint committee to resolve disputes, saying a judicial component was essential.

“We have come a long way on the substance of the exit agreement, but without effective governance, these gains will be of limited value,” he said. “We cannot leave such a central subject in abeyance because, without an agreement on governance, there will be no Withdrawal Agreement, and therefore no transition period.”

EU law

The argument is particularly difficult for Westminster since Mr Barnier envisages an extended role for European judges in interpreting any elements of EU law that are included in Britain’s exit treaty.

Mr Barnier suggested a compromise agreed on the enforcement of citizen rights – which gave the ECJ indirect influence over UK cases for eight years after Brexit – could be used as a model for other parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

“The mechanism allows us to ensure, over time, the uniformity of the interpretation of the agreement on both sides of the Channel,” Mr Barnier said. “This objective, which has been achieved for citizen rights, has yet to be achieved for the rest of the withdrawal treaty. This would reduce the risk of litigation between the EU and the UK.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018