The Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has reportedly expressed frustration that Michel Barnier is struggling to make himself available for face-to-face talks.
Mr Raab was assured by Mr Barnier that he would be available “24/7” for discussions on Brexit, especially given the tight timetable both sides are working towards. However, this appears to be more of an empty promise as the British side have been unable to secure lengthy discussions owing to Mr Barnier’s diary constraints.
The Guardian has reported that the British cabinet minister was granted only a two-hour meeting with Barnier last week, having initially offered only a three-hour slot this Friday.
Barnier, who according to Twitter has been in his home region of Savoie in south-east France, as well as Germany and was understood to be again leaving Brussels for Croatia on Friday afternoon, following what was set to be an early morning meeting with the British cabinet minister.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) August 26, 2018
The two sides pledged that summer would not see a halt to the Brexit talks as they enter the final stage of the negotiations, with Barnier insisting a deal needed to be struck by “the beginning of November, but not much later than that”.
Yet despite the EU repeatedly saying that they are committed to “working for a deal”, the British side believe that this has been little more than hyperbole.
Now with summer creeping to an end, representations have been made to the EU in which commission officials were told that Raab required lengthy meetings to discuss the detail of the Chequers plan, which the UK believes is not being given the attention it deserves.
It is understood that discussions over Northern Ireland proved to be some of the most difficult yet, as the UK side has insisted that progress on avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland could not be made unless there was progress on Chequers.
The EU, in turn, has stressed that the British government must live up to the commitments it made on an “all-weather” solution to avoiding a hard border through a backstop solution in the withdrawal agreement, which would snap into place if a wider deal or bespoke technological solution did not solve the problem.
Dominic Raab expressed his frustration with Barnier during a brief press conference last week when he expressed hope for a longer meeting this week, and suggested that a deal would require “energy on both sides”.
The news comes as Theresa May’s former Chief of Staff Nick Timothy has urged the British negotiating team to “show some fight, and do a deal true to what Britain voted for two years ago.”
The ball now lies in the court of the seemingly unreasonable and unrelenting European Union; should no deal be reached, the EU may only be able to blame itself.