EU’s Brexit negotiator, ‘Here starts day one of a very long and difficult road’

Michel Barnier in Malta for bilateral meeting • 48 hours after the United Kingdom triggers Article 50, officially kick-starting Brexit, the EU will issue its guidelines for negotiations 

Michel Barnier (right) is meeting Malta prime minister Joseph Muscat
Michel Barnier (right) is meeting Malta prime minister Joseph Muscat

It is day one of a very long and difficult road, the European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit told Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Malta, ahead of a bilateral meeting at the Auberge de Castille.

Michel Barnier, the Commission’s chief negotiator for Britian’s exit from the EU, made his comments today Wednesday as the United Kingdom triggered Article 50, officially informing the bloc of 28 it would be leaving the bloc.

He is in Malta for the European People's Party congress.

48 hours after Brexit is set in motion, the European Council will provide Barnier with a set of guidelines by which Barnier and his team will lead the negotiations with the UK. “We are at the first day of a very long and difficult road and we want to succeed,” Barnier told Muscat.

The Maltese prime minister reiterated that the EU wanted Brexit to be “a fair deal for both sides” – with the EU not preparing to concede any special favours to the UK unless it subscribes to its principles of free movement and free trade – but at the same time show that EU membership is the better deal for everyone.

With Malta at the helm of the EU’s rotating presidency, deputy prime minister Louis Grech will be in charge of leading work with the European Council president’s team with the aim of achieving agreement and convergence on the Brexit guidelines.

Soon after the UK’s official letter is sent at midday Wednesday, the EU will issue an initial statement.

Muscat said Barnier will be the sole negotiator with the UK, and will report back to EU leaders on the process. “I welcome calls for transparency on this process... This is a sad day for us but now we have to move on. We must be transparent, open and honest on what we want and make it clear that the EU will be moving forward in one direction.”

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