Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations with the United Kingdom under article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) gives a press conference at the European Commission on December 6, 2016, in Brussels.
EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned London not to waste time, as Brussels waits for embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May to name a date for talks.
In an interview with a group of European newspapers, Barnier lamented that it was already three months since May had formally triggered the two-year process of Britain leaving the European Union.
“My preoccupation is that time is passing, it is passing quicker than anyone believes because the subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex… I can’t negotiate with myself,” Barnier was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.
“It will take us several months to draw out the conditions of an orderly withdrawal . . . so let’s not waste time,” he said.
Formal negotiations between Barnier and British Brexit minister David Davis had been due to start next week but that timetable has been thrown into doubt by May’s catastrophic loss of a majority in last Thursday’s election.
She is now seeking an alliance with a hardline unionist party in Northern Ireland to cling on to power.
Barnier held “talks about talks” with May’s Brexit advisor Olly Robbins and British EU ambassador Tim Barrow in Brussels on Monday but they failed to agree on a date for the negotiations to begin, an EU official said.
“I need a British delegation and a head of delegation who are stable, responsible and have a mandate,” Barnier was quoted as saying by French daily Le Monde.
Barnier has said he wants to wrap up a Brexit deal by October 2018 so it has time to get through national parliaments and the European Parliament in time for Britain’s departure from the bloc at the end of March 2019.
His comments echo those of EU President Donald Tusk who said on Friday that there was “no time to lose” to avoid Britain crashing out without a deal on future relations.