MICHEL BARNIER has ramped up the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make concessions in post-Brexit talks by claiming the EU is in a better position to walk away from negotiations.
Michel Barnier has made another intervention and reignited “Project Fear” ahead of the fourth round of Brexit trade talks which will begin this week. The European Commission Head of Taskforce has claimed the EU will be “less exposed” to a no deal outcome at the end of the transition period – as the UK exports a greater number of goods to the continent.
Mr Barnier says Britain exports just less than half of all its goods to the European Union, compared to just seven percent in the other direction.
On the prospect of no agreement being reached between the two sides, the 69-year-old said: “We are less exposed because seven percent of our exports go to the UK, whereas for the UK its 47 percent of their exports which come to the EU.
“So I think that it is in the interests of both sides to find an agreement, particularly now.
“But there wont be an agreement which comes about to the detriment of the EU in the long-term, nor if it harms the integrity of the single market.”
Mr Barnier and the UKs Brexit negotiator David Frost have so far held three rounds of talks with outstanding issues over trade, fishing and regulations proving a huge stumbling block.
Brussels has so far resisted the UKs demands, outlined in its draft legal texts, for a comprehensive free-trade agreement – with the EU insisting on clauses to ensure a so-called “level-playing field”.
With talks at a stalemate, Mr Barnier has again condemned the result of the 2016 EU referendum but insisting any deal would be worse than the current terms.
In an interview with the Sunday Times the EU chief said the negotiations were concentrated on “damage limitation” and claimed even leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage could not show the “added value to Brexit”.
Mr Barnier also insisted the global coronavirus crisis has put a new emphasis on finding an agreement and stated the COVID-19 pandemic has already brought “very serious consequences”.
He said: “Brexit is lose-lose. Nobody has been able to show theres any added value to Brexit — not so far.
“Not even Nigel Farage. So in these negotiations, what we do is damage limitation.
“If we dont get an agreement then that will have even more consequences. And then of course those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis.
“So I think that we have a joint responsibility in this very serious crisis, which affects so many families, with so many deaths, so many people sick, so many people unemployed, to do everything we can to reach an agreement and I very much hope that we will do so.”
Earlier this week, Mr Barnier meddled in UK affairs by publishing a letter to opposition party leaders offering the UK a delay to the transition period of up to two years.
The terms outlined in the letter were instantly reject by the Prime Minister and Mr Frost who have vowed to honour the December 31 deadline.
Officially the UK and the EU have until July 1 to decide whether to prolong the talks.
After being knocked back by Downing Street, Mr Barnier conceded it is unlikely he will get his wish to shackle the UK to Brussels rules and regulations any longer than agreed.
He said: “What I am hearing publicly and privately is that the UK does not want to ask for and to talk about this kind of extension.
“We need to clarify that once and for all by the end of June.”