Barnier and Verhofstadt have differing views on if Britain can begin trade talks while in the EU
EU treaties state once a withdrawal agreement and a "broad idea" of what a future relationship between the UK and the bloc have been agreed, then the two parties can commence talks, according to Guy Verhofstadt.
The Europhile said: “In the treaty, Article 50, we are saying a withdrawal can be agreed taking into consideration the future relationship.
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A withdrawal agreement needs to be agreed in light of the future relationship and partnership with the UK.
“So you see it is a fantastic political text and it says it all, a withdrawal agreement in the light of the future relationship. That is literally in the treaty and that is what we need to apply.”
Verhofstadt made similar remarks on Newsnight when quizzed by presenter Evan Davis.
He said: “The treaty is very clear on this. Take Article 50, and it’s indicating what needs to be done. And the treaty says two things. First of all a withdrawal agreement needs to be agreed, and that in light of the future relationship and partnership with the UK.
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“So you need to already have at that moment a broad idea of what will be the future relationship. That’s exactly what the treaty says.”
His comments come in stark contrast to Michel Barnier – the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator – who argued the Britain can only begin trade talks once the terms of the exit have been agreed.
Theresa May has expressed a desire to conduct both sets of talks simultaneously.
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Evan Davis and Guy Verhofstadt discussed Brexit on Newsnight
While Verhofstadt appeared to be in favour of conducting parallel talks, the 63-year-old claimed such talks would not begin until at least by the “end of May, beginning of June”.
Verhofstadt added that Britain would have to pay for commitments it had agreed to when in the EU, even after it had left.
He added: “The outstanding commitments now and before Britain will leave the European Union will be around €600billion (£513billion). That’s the reality and you can find in the accounts of the EU.”
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