In an antagonistic interview, the Frenchman said the Government has yet to come to terms with the consequences of leaving the European Union. He said: “The British have not understood or do not want to understand that Brexit has consequences for them. For us too. But also for them. That after leaving the EU, they cannot have the same conditions and status as when they were members of the European Union. That is your choice. It is difficult for them to accept the consequences of Brexit. There should be more realism in London in the near future if they want an orderly agreement to exit the single market and customs union.”
Mr Barnier’s intervention came after David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the bloc would have to be more flexible in its approach in order to achieve a deal.
But the Brussels bureaucrat indicated he will not back down in his demand for a regulatory level-playing field, which will see Britain made to sign up to large swathes of EU rules.
“The question of changing the mandate of the European Union does not arise at all,” Mr Barnier told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
“I remind you that the UK will leave the internal market and the customs union after leaving the European Union. We continue to set the conditions for access to our own market.
“A third country, the United Kingdom, will not dictate to us the terms of access to our market for British goods, services, data or for workers and businesses.
“We remain sovereign. That is my mandate. We ourselves determine the access conditions for our market in all areas.”
In a direct attack on his counterpart, Mr Barnier added: “Mr Frost should remember that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union and the internal market.
“The United Kingdom wants to establish trade and economic relations with us. For services, transportation, aviation, internal security.
“You want this agreement. We do too, but they leave the European Union, not we leave the United Kingdom.”
Negotiations have reached a standstill with both sides failing to bridge gaps on areas such as access to Britain’s fishing waters, the so-called level-playing field and the overall structure of the future relationship.
Relations hit a new low after a frank exchange of letters between the two negotiators saw Mr Frost accuse Brussels of trying to fob Britain off with a sub-standard trade deal and Mr Barnier hit back to complain about his counterpart’s “tone”.
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Despite the short timetable, Mr Barnier believes a deal is still possible.
He said: “It is very difficult, but it is possible. Still possible, even if the British are now imposing a time constraint by refusing to extend the negotiations.
“These could be extended by a year or two if you wish. We are ready for it. If they don’t want to, we now have eight months, even less, six months to leave time for ratification. So: extremely difficult, but still possible.”