Barnier Rejects Freezing Brexit Talks If No Irish Progress

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator said failure to reach a deal on the Irish border will increase the risk of a messy divorce but ruled out resorting to punishment measures such as freezing talks with the U.K.

Brexit negotiations are at a stalemate over the issue of the Irish border: While both sides want to keep the new U.K.-EU frontier open after Brexit, no one has come up with a solution that’s acceptable to all. The EU is demanding ideas from the U.K. in time for a summit on June 28 but it’s not clear what the EU will do if it doesn’t get what it wants. Strong rhetoric is one option.

Asked in Budapest if the EU would freeze negotiations if no agreement is reached, Michel Barnier rejected the idea.

“It is in the common interest to progress,” he told Bloomberg News. "Nothing will be frozen, we have no time to freeze, the time is short, the clock is ticking. If we don’t make enough progress it could be a stronger risk for the final stage.”

Both sides are aiming to get a deal by October on the overall divorce deal and the June summit is the last scheduled gathering of leaders before then. Talks resume in Brussels this week and U.K. negotiators are preparing to hand over a new proposal on the Irish border, according to two people familiar with the situation.

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