Barnier has dismissed hopes of getting Britain's EU divorce completed quickly
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg, the EU Brexit negotiator said: "The sooner we agree the principles of an orderly withdrawal, the sooner we can prepare our future relations in trade.”
Barnier said he hoped for “a free and fair trade agreement but also in security and defence" as MEPs prepared to vote on the parliament’s “red lines” for the upcoming Brexit talks.
However, the former French foreign minister suggested Theresa May’s hopes of a quick EU divorce are unrealistic as he said her desire to carry out exit talks alongside trade arrangements was a “very risky approach”.
He added: “Theresa May’s letter seeks a rapid agreement, but quite clearly the devil is going to be in the detail. The six months work I’ve done so far points to that.
Nigel Farage accused the European Parliament of behaving 'like the Mafia'
Theresa May’s letter seeks a rapid agreement, but quite clearly the devil is going to be in the detail
“We are not proposing this to be tactical or to create difficulties. It is an essential condition to maximise our chances of reaching an agreement together in two years.
“It is our best chance to build trust before proceeding to the second phase.”
Barnier said arrangements for Britain’s ties with the EU after Brexit can only be discussed once agreements have been made on the exit bill, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the border in Northern Ireland.
Things you may not know about Michel Barnier Mon, March 27, 2017
Once dubbed the 'most dangerous man in Europe'
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The veteran French politician has previously served as EU commissioner for internal market and services and also regional policy.
Theresa May's Article 50 letter urged rapid Brexit talks
He also urged the remaining EU members to stay united during Brexit talks amid fears Britain will seek to play on divisions within the bloc.
Barnier added: "If the union is disunited we risk that there is no deal.”
The EU chief’s comments came during a fiery debate in the European Parliament on the key issues of Brexit talks, in which former Ukip leader Nigel Farage accused the Brussels club of trying to hold the UK at “ransom”.
Fellow MEPs appeared gobsmacked as the 53-year-old warned any hostile treatment during the forthcoming negotiations would only hurt the EU.
After slating the bloc for allowing Spain a veto over a Brexit deal affecting Gibraltar, Mr Farage fumed: “You have shown yourselves with these demands as vindictive, to be nasty, all I can say is thank goodness we’re leaving.
“You’re behaving like the mafia, you think we’re a hostage, we’re not, we’re free to go!”