Michel Barnier: ‘Difficult to see’ how Brexit deal can be reached

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EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks during a press conference in the German federal foreign ministry | Adam Berry/Getty Images

EU negotiator says British demands are ‘unacceptable.’

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The U.K. government’s suggested changes to the Brexit withdrawal deal are “unacceptable” and “it is difficult to see” how a deal can be struck, according to EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

The Frenchman, who was speaking at a press conference in Berlin after talks with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said “we respect the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU, to leave the single market, to leave the customs union.”

But he said that despite a deal being struck with Theresa May, “the new government of the U.K. wants us to get rid of the … so-called backstop.

“The U.K. government also wants the EU to change the way the internal market and border controls operate after Brexit. As I am sure you will understand, this is unacceptable.”

Barnier added that “based on current U.K. thinking, it is difficult to see how we can arrive at a legally operative solution which fulfils all the objectives of the backstop.”

Meanwhile, May’s former chief of staff Gavin Barwell said it was “obviously” wrong to agree to the EU’s demands that the divorce negotiations took place before the future trade arrangements.

Asked by the BBC what went wrong in the Brexit talks, Barwell said “the original phasing decision” made negotiations “harder.”

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