Michel Barnier’s warning: ‘Brexit is not a game’

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The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator emerges from lunch with David Davis to pile pressure on talks already marred by divisions.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has appeared to slam Theresa May for claiming “the ball is in the EU’s court”.

Michel Barnier left a lunch with Brexit Secretary David Davis to say the pair had had “constructive talks” and assure that “we are working”.

But he delivered a stern warning when asked about suggestions the EU was responsible for negotiations stalling.

The Frenchman turned from leaving and approached the microphones again to say: “Brexit is not a game. Don’t forget that.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis
Image:
Brexit Secretary David Davis

He spoke as the fifth round of crunch talks got underway, marred by interventions from the UK and EU sides.

Mrs May had said the ball was in Brussels’ court, but the European Commission shot back: “The ball is entirely in the UK’s court”.

The two sides were also divided over initial reports of a break in negotiations planned for Wednesday.


European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas blamed the UK, saying the EU’s teams were available “24/7”.

While the Brexit Department told Sky News that the break was “mutually agreed” and added it was “ready to negotiate at any time”.

But they later confirmed technical talks would go ahead, a spokesperson telling Sky News: “The programme was agreed between the UK and EU, and we kept Wednesday free from the outset to give us flexibility during the round for any technical talks, which are taking place tomorrow.

“The UK has always been available for that and it is simply incorrect to suggest otherwise.”

EU Council President Donald Tusk seemed to downplay tensions, saying on Tuesday that the EU was not working on a “‘no deal’ scenario”

Donald Tusk gives a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (not pictured)
Image:
Donald Tusk gives a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (not pictured)

“We hear from London that the UK government is preparing for a no deal scenario,” he said.

“I would like to say very clearly that the EU is not working on such a scenario. We are negotiating in good faith and we still hope that the so-called sufficient progress will be possible by December.

But he warned: “If it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace and sufficient progress hasn’t been reached, then – together there with our UK friends – we will have to think about where we are heading.”

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Mr Barnier and Mr Davis had been lunching at the British ambassador’s residence in Brussels to smooth over divisions.

They dined on pan-fried sea bass with sautéed smoked bacon, chicory, runner beans and red wine sauce.

Also on the menu was a roast fillet of Angus beef with horse-radish mash, wild mushrooms, butter nut crisp and thyme jus.

English Sparkling wine was served as an aperitif, while pear chocolate soufflé was brought out for dessert.

Brexit Secretary David Davis

Donald Tusk gives a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (not pictured)

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