EU's chief negotiator warns of 'serious consequences' if no Brexit deal
The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator has warned there will be "serious consequences for everyone" if Britain and the EU fail to clinch a deal within the two years of talks.
Michel Barnier said that there could be "total uncertainty" for the UK, but told an EU audience that he will be negotiating in good faith to make sure that a mutually acceptable agreement is reached.
He said that "this scenario of 'no deal' is not ours".
Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger the two-year period of negotiations on March 29, and the talks could start in May.
Mr Barnier said not reaching a deal could leave four million European and British citizens uncertain about their rights and future, result in the reintroduction of strict customs rules, create air traffic chaos to and from Britain and lead to the suspension of exports of nuclear materials.
The former French government minister said the talks he will lead will be transparent and open, saying that "these negotiations cannot take place in secret".
He said the first aim would be to end uncertainty for EU and British students and pensioners abroad, as well as healthcare workers in the UK.
The EU's watchword will be "citizens first," he said.
Mr Barnier insisted that Britain will face no punishment for leaving, but that "we must settle the accounts".
He said: "We will not ask the British to pay a single euro for something they have not agreed to as a member".
Some estimates suggest the EU wants Britain to pay a hefty divorce bill of up to 60 billion euros (£52bn) to cover EU staff pensions and other expenses the UK has committed to. The UK Government has not ruled out paying but is expected to contest the bill.