After the Frenchman’s negotiating mandate was signed off by ministers, he accused the Prime Minister of “putting time pressure” on the bloc in pursuit of a deal. In a press conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier said: “These will be, demanding negotiations that take place in a limited amount of time before the UK leaves the single market. “A short time chosen by the British Government, not by us… Everyone needs to assume their responsibilities, in a brief period of time, you can’t do everything – it’s the British Government putting time pressure on these talks.”
The bloc’s chief negotiator also revealed talks would begin with the Government’s Taskforce Europe, led by David Frost, next week.
Mr Barnier said: “We are ready, we are ready to start this new stage in negotiations following Brexit.
“We are ready to start on Monday afternoon, with the British team led by David Frost.”
The first round of negotiations will be held in Brussels before a second round in London “later in March”, the Brussels bureaucrat added.
Mr Barnier also lashed at a Downing Street spokesman over claims Britain would use trade talks to reclaim sovereignty from Brussels.
Responding to a newspaper report the Government would “ensure we restore our economic and political independence on January 1, 2021”, Mr Barnier argued they had already achieved that with Brexit.
The Frenchman said: “That is not true, the economic and political independence of the UK does not need to be negotiated.”
After several lectern-bashing moments, Mr Barnier suggested Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis should read the withdrawal agreement, who claimed there would be no checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Mr Barnier fumed: “I think there are reasons for us to remain vigilant because the British minister in charge of Northern Ireland has come up with some very surprising statements.
“I will be very pleased to meet him whenever he wants… I would like him to take some time to read through the Withdrawal Agreement in some detail.”
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The eurocrat launched into a tirade after complaints the bloc had insisted on placing a linkage between any free-trade deal and fisheries.
He argued a fisheries deal with Japan and South Korea would be pointless, but for Britain an absolute necessity.
He said: “It’s difficult to imagine there being a fisheries agreement with Japan or South Korea, no?”
“That’s why these agreements aren’t the same. The free-trade agreement and the various models of free-agreement that we’ll be discussing with the UK as of Monday will be tailor-made and within the specifics of an free-trade agreement there will be fisheries as one issue, it’s a matter of trade too.
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“Let me remind you that most of the British processed fisheries products are traded are exported are sent to us the European market. It’s trade and the conditions for that trade, so fisheries is part of a package as regards our trade relations which are to be discussed and the package is one you can’t break up.
“There will be no ambiguity at all around that a trade agreement will be associated with a fisheries agreement and an agreement about a level playing field or there won’t be any agreement at all.”