Barnier in Malta stresses that on Brexit, the ball is in UK’s court

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The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is in Malta to discuss Brexit with the Maltese Government.

The Times reports that Brexit lead negotiator Michel Barnier said that the EU was open to being “more ambitious” in talks, if the UK wished.

Addressing a press conference with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Mr Barnier told journalists however, that it was crucial to protect the EU’s fundamental principles, even when being more “open” during talks with the UK. “An orderly Brexit is the best possible start for a new and close relationship with the UK. In any case, UK will remain an economic partner,” Mr Barnier said.

The Malta Independent report quotes Prime Minister Joseph Muscat saying that the ball is not in Britain’s court. Muscat said that he was encouraged by Barnier’s statement, that there will be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement, and that now the EU is more focused on on the future relationship between the Union and the UK. He said that Malta’s level of preparedness is very good in both the case of a no-deal Brexit, and one with a deal.

Thanking Malta for its part in the negotiations, Mr Barnier said that following talks with the government earlier on Friday morning, he would also be meeting various stakeholders in order to ensure there is open dialogue.

Video from the Malta Independent 

Barnier, who described himself as Malta’s negotiator as well in terms of how his role was in the Brexit process, said that the EU was keen on Britain agreeing to the deal, so that focus could then be placed on what was really important – the future relations it will have with the Union. In this regard, Barnier said the EU was awaiting discussions between the UK government and the Labour opposition.

Malta Today reports Barnier saying that when it came to the political declaration, the EU was open to any wish from the UK to be in a customs union with the bloc. “But we will always ensure that the EU’s principles – the single market, the four freedoms and the autonomy of the 27 member states – are preserved.”

He went on to thank Muscat personally and said he was in agreement with him that work regarding the Brexit divorce was finished.

Via The Times of Malta/MaltaToday/Malta Independent