Exclusive: UK negotiators have ‘no direction’ due to a lack of clarity from the government, member of the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group says
A key member of the European Parliament’s Brexit team has described the manner in which the UK is conducting the Brexit negotiations as “a shambles” and warned that Michel Barnier is privately expressing his concerns, The Independent can reveal.
Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, who sits on the influential cross-party Brexit steering group, said he had never witnessed such “unpreparedness, lack of professionalism and competence” from politicians and that UK negotiators have “no direction” due to a lack of clarity from the government.
Theresa May is meeting with her cabinet at Chequers on 22 February to address this issue and is looking to produce a coherent plan for the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.
The government has been split for months over how the negotiations should proceed and the summit is when the cabinet will be forced into finally agreeing on a position.
Mr Lamberts, who meets with Mr Barnier on regular basis, said that the chief negotiator was concerned with the UK’s current demands.
“I talked with him [Michel Barnier] in a private meeting and yes we are worried. He may speak less bluntly than I do but he is quite clear. We are worried. What we see on the other side of the channel is a shambles,” he told The Independent.
Discussing Ms May’s recent Brexit announcements, Mr Lamberts, said that her messages had been “mixed at best” and were a series of contradictions.
“I would not like to be a British civil servant or negotiator because I wouldn’t know what to do because I have no direction,” he added.
Ms May’s hopes of finally producing a detailed plan on Britain’s future relationship with the EU rests on whether there will be any reconciliation with the Remain-backing ministers, who are pushing for close regulatory alignment with Europe, and the Leave-backing cabinet members, who are hoping for a much harder Brexit.
David Davis claimed there would be “no final answer” when he was quizzed on the Chequers meeting.
The Brexit Secretary added that the government’s Brexit position would be refined and he joked that Ms May would not let them leave the meeting until they reached an agreement.
“We have started back at Lancaster House with the grand outline of the plan which was the same as it is now in outline,” Mr Davis said.
“That was fleshed out in more detail in Florence. There are two white papers on it. There are 14 policy papers last year – I lazily gave up my holiday all summer to sign them all off.
“And of course we will be talking about some of these specific issues on Thursday. The policy will get more and more and more closely refined and that is what will happen this Thursday and very successfully,” he added.
The comments come as the Dutch government activated a “hard Brexit” contingency plan citing the lack of a coherent message from the UK as the reason why.
The country’s finance minister, Menno Snel, said the event of a “no deal Brexit” was now “conceivable”, Sky News reported.
“The divisions within the British Conservative Party and the remaining lack of clarity about the British input continue to impede the smooth running of the negotiations,” Mr Snel said.
“It is therefore clear that the scenario that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a withdrawal agreement and without a transitional period is still conceivable.”