Barnier says Brexit deal possible by October 2018

EU Commission chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reckons a a Brexit deal could be in place by October 2018 if British Prime Minister triggers Article 50 by the end of March next year as she has indicated. His comments are broadly in line with those of the European Parliament’s chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who suggested recently that 15 months would be enough for talks. They may well be a response to the lack of clarity emanating from London where Theresa May is refusing to set out her Brexit strategy: up to 40 Tory MPs are reported to be ready to support a Labour motion urging her to publish her strategy.  Setting out a possible timetable looks very much like a strong signal that Brusses will be in charge of the process. Barnier reiterated that “The Single Market and four freedoms are indivisible. Cherry picking is not an option….Being a member of the European Union comes with rights and benefits. Third countries can never have the same rights and benefits since they are not subject to the same obligations.” Interestingly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used precisely the same terminology in a speech to her CDU party in Essen: “We will not allow any cherry picking ….The four basic freedoms must be safeguarded – freedom of movement for people, goods, services and financial market products. Only then can there be access to the single market.” Barnier also said a transitional deal for the UK was possible, but only “when we know … what they would like and what they are prepared to accept with this new partnership.”