BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain, which asked on Friday for a two-year transition period after it leaves the European Union in 2019, would have to abide by all EU rules during this phase, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday.
“If the UK is asking for a transitional period, it is the UK asking, not us,” Barnier told a news conference.
“If the idea is that during this period, the UK will still participate in the single market... then it is quite clear that all European regulations, enforcement, financial conditions, supervision, all of that has to be maintained during the period, without any exceptions,” he said.
Theresa May’s “constructive spirit” won a cautious welcome from the European Union on Friday, although the British prime minister’s keynote Brexit speech raised more questions than answers for some.
May for the first time spelled out her request for a transition period of about two years after Brexit, during which Britain would stay in the EU’s single market.
“The EU has to decide whether it will have a transitional period and whether it is in its interests,” Barnier said, noting that the request made it all the more necessary for Britain to reach a deal with the EU on its divorce terms first.
The three areas in which there must be “sufficient progress” for the EU to start talks on a transition period, are citizens’ rights, a financial settlement and relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Heading for a meeting with British chief negotiator David Davis to start a fourth round of divorce negotiations, Barnier said he expected London to translate the proposals made by May in her speech into formal negotiating positions.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Philip Blenkinsop