The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, did not mince his words following a visit to Brussels by the UK’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, and made it clear that the European Union would not budge on its assertion that the Withdrawal Agreement that was drawn up by the two sides late last year will not be renegotiated.
Barnier did say that his talks with Barclay had been constructive and that they will continue, but the reopening of Withdrawal Agreement talks are off the table.
The British government classified the meeting as “constructive and Mr Barclay and Mr Barnier agreed to further talks in the coming days and that their teams would continue to work in the meantime on finding a way forward.”
Barclay and Barnier were also joined by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s EU ambassador, and Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator. Barclay will now travel to Strasbourg with David Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister, to meet senior European parliamentarians, including Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent Barclay and her European advisor Olly Robbins to hold official negotiations for the first time since the draft agreement on the UK leaving the bloc was signed off by European leaders in November of last year.
May’s negotiators arrived in Brussels only days after May, herself, came to the city on February 7 when she met EU officials after the British House of Commons voted to reject the Withdrawal Agreement.