EU negotiator warns of 'severe' impact if Brexit deal falls apart
Europe's chief Brexit negotiator has warned there is a distinct possibility that negotiations could end without a deal, which would have "severe consequences".
Writing in the 'Financial Times', he said there would be severe disruption to air transport and long queues at Dover if that was to happen.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to pull the trigger on Article 50 tomorrow, starting the formal Brexit process.
Mr Barnier said the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, the bill London must settle to exit, and the peace process in Northern Ireland, will take centre stage in the early stage of the talks.
"It goes without saying that a no-deal scenario, while a distinct possibility, would have severe consequences for our people and our economies. It would undoubtedly leave the UK worse off," Mr Barnier wrote. "Severe disruption to air transport and long queues at the Channel port of Dover are just some of the many examples of the negative consequences of failing to reach a deal."
He also said the EU would "not stand for anything that weakens dialogue and peace in Northern Ireland". Mr Barnier said the UK will need to assume its responsibility as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.
"If we cannot resolve these three significant uncertainties at an early stage, we run the risk of failure," Mr Barnier said. "Putting things in the right order maximises the chances of reaching an agreement."
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the Government will be looking at existing legal arrangements in Europe which facilitate freight traffic crossing through Switzerland en route from one EU country to another. He said the Government will be looking at this in the context of difficulties faced by Irish exporters that may currently move their produce to mainland Europe through the UK.
"There is an arrangement between Italy crossing Switzerland into Germany and France, which will be analogous and one of our approaches to the negotiation would be to identify parts of the European legal system where exceptions already apply, which we could use as precedents. That's one we'll be exploring on the trade side," Mr Noonan said.
The minister was speaking alongside French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, who was visiting Dublin yesterday. Mr Sapin said the issue of freight will have to be discussed during the Brexit talks.
"I do see in France lorries which come from outside of the EU and leave the EU without the content being checked at each border post," he said.