Brexit talks: EU's Barnier urges Europe's MPs to be vigilant

EU's Michel Barnier, 22 May 17 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Barnier - a former EU commissioner - knows the UK financial system in depth

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has urged European MPs to be vigilant throughout the Brexit talks because there is a risk of unfair British competition.

Mr Barnier was speaking at an EU parliamentary conference in Malta. The negotiations on UK withdrawal from the EU are scheduled to start on 19 June.

"We want full transparency for these negotiations," Mr Barnier said.

The UK's exit bill and EU citizens' rights are likely to be tough issues.

Mr Barnier and EU leaders say they want to see "sufficient progress" on those issues, and Northern Ireland border arrangements, before embarking on talks aimed at a long-term EU-UK trade deal.

However, the British government wants trade talks to be conducted in parallel with the talks on UK withdrawal terms.

UK ministers have also reacted angrily to reports that the EU may demand as much as €100bn (£86bn; $112bn) from the UK.

"Once it leaves the Union the UK could be tempted to distance itself from our standards, for example on consumer protection or on financial stability rules," Mr Barnier said in his Malta speech.

"We must ensure that this inevitable divergence does not become unfair competition. Since if that were to happen I think most of you would feel very reluctant to approve such a deal.

"To avoid that situation, it is necessary for your parliaments to follow closely the entire negotiation process."

Under the EU's Article 50, the UK has to leave by the end of March 2019, even if no final deal has been concluded.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May addressed London voters on the campaign trail on Monday

EU key principles

Ahead of the Brexit talks, the European Commission has published papers setting out "essential principles" on citizens' rights and on a financial settlement with the UK, which will be presented to the British negotiators.

Mr Barnier said the national parliaments should provide significant input into the EU's "future partnership" with the UK.

That deal would have to be ratified by parliaments EU-wide, and by the European Parliament, he said, adding: "You will have the final word."

At an election campaign event in south-west London on Monday UK Prime Minister Theresa May said "we continue to want a deep and special partnership with the remaining 27 countries".

She hopes that the snap election she called for 8 June will deliver a stronger majority to the Conservatives, giving them more political clout in the Brexit talks.

"There won't be any putting it off," she said, referring to the 19 June start date for the negotiations.

Brexit timetable:

  • 8 June - UK parliamentary election
  • 19 June - Brexit negotiations set to begin
  • 22-23 June - EU summit in Brussels, expected to focus on Brexit
  • 24 September - German parliamentary election, with Mrs Merkel seeking a fourth term
  • 29 March 2019 - Deadline for ending talks on UK exit terms (any extension requires agreement of all member states)
  • May or June 2019 - European Parliament election (without UK)
  • Ratification - Any Brexit deal requires approval by European Council majority (20 out of 27 states) and by European Parliament; a trade deal requires EU-wide parliamentary approval
Image copyright AP

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