EU's Barnier reacts very coolly to UK's backstop proposal
The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has reacted coolly to the UK's backstop proposal.
Westminster had proposed that Britain continue to apply the European Union's external tariffs, but not its Common Commercial Policy, which would allow it to negotiate its own trade deals, until the end of December 2021.
Under a previous understanding, reached in March, the transition period between when the UK was set to leave the EU in the absence of any deal, in March 2019, and the real effective date of its departure was December 2020.
But now, that transition period would be extended until the end of 2021 by which time - at the latest - a permanent arrangement with the EU "should" be in place, the UK had proposed.
Nevertheless, in the document sent to Brussels, Westminster stopped short of setting a legally binding and explicit cut-off date.
"The U.K. expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest. There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered," the proposal read.
But Barnier was not wholly convinced by that, saying at a press conference in Brussels that it was not clear how the proposal: "fit with the absence of a hard border in [Northern Ireland] all circumstances [given that it is time-limited]?"
"Our backstop cannot be extended to the whole U.K. why because it has been designed for the specific situation of Northern Ireland," he added.
"Some parties in the U.K. seek to make us responsible for the consequences of that decision. We won't let ourselves be intimidated. I won't let myself by intimidated by this form of blame game."
Generating some confusion, afterwards Barnier tweeted: "I reiterate that our backstop cannot apply to whole UK. 4 freedoms are indivisible. This is not a rejection of the UK customs paper on which discussions continue."