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EU’s Barnier welcomes ‘clarity’ in May Brexit speech

European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

Brussels, Belgium | AFP | The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday welcomed a key speech on Brexit by British Prime Minister Theresa May, saying she had brought “clarity”.

Barnier said May’s highly-anticipated address in London, in which she said said it was time to face up to “hard facts” about the consequences of leaving the bloc, would help the EU draw up guidelines on the next stage of divorce talks.

May confirmed Britain would leave the European Union’s single market and customs union after Brexit in March 2019, but acknowledged for the first time the UK may suffer new trade barriers as a result of the move.

“I welcome PM @theresa_may speech. Clarity about #UK leaving Single Market and Customs Union & recognition of trade-offs will inform #EUCO guidelines re: future FTA,” Barnier tweeted.

EU leaders have been pressing May to clarify what she wants before they agree their position on the future economic partnership at a summit later this month.

Brussels has repeatedly warned London it will not be allowed to “cherry pick” the elements of the EU’s single market and customs union while leaving behind the obligations they bring.

But the response from Europe was not wholly positive, with Manfred Weber, the head of the European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, pouring cold water on May’s speech.

“After what I have heard today I am even more concerned. I don’t see how we could reach an agreement on #Brexit if the UK government continues to bury its head in the sand like this,” tweeted Weber, an ally of powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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