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Barnier warns Britain of poor Brexit progress

Reuters

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends an EU General Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday.

Reuters BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The European Union on Monday warned Britain time was running out to seal a Brexit deal this autumn and ensure London does not crash out of the bloc next March, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May.

May’s spokesman, however, said the “focus is on getting this right” rather than meeting a deadline.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told 27 ministers of the bloc meeting in Brussels on Monday that “no significant progress” had been made in negotiations with London since March, the Bulgarian chairwoman of the talks said.

Diplomats and officials in Brussels have raised doubts about whether the bloc and London will be able to mark a milestone in the negotiations at the summit of EU leaders on June 28-29.

“More work is needed to prepare for the U.K.’s orderly withdrawal ... Allow me to repeat myself: we are not there yet,” Barnier said on Monday, adding the outstanding issues, including the Irish border conundrum, were “very serious.”

The current schedule puts progress in June as an important step toward a final Brexit deal in October, which would leave enough time for an elaborate EU ratification process before the Brexit day.

“October is only five months from now and still some key issues related to the withdrawal agreement need to be settled. In June we need to see substantive progress on Ireland, on governance and all remaining separation issues,” said Ekaterina Zakharieva, deputy prime minister of Bulgaria which holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

German, Austrian and Dutch ministers all echoed the same concern, saying Britain has not made its position clear in detail on parts of the negotiations: “The clock is ticking,” Germany’s Michael Roth told his EU peers.

“We need now to be making substantial progress, but that is not happening. What is worrying us in particular is the Northern Ireland question where we expect a substantial accommodation from the British side.”

At home, May is stuck between a rock and a hard place with staunch Brexit supporters pushing to sever ties with the EU and others advocating keeping close customs cooperation with the bloc to reduce frictions in future trade.Speech

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