February 9, 2018 / 4:49 PM / in 3 months

Britain 'surprised' EU unclear on its position over transition period

LONDON (Reuters) - Brexit minister David Davis said on Friday he was surprised to hear that the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was unclear on Britain’s demands in any transition period.

Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis arrives in Downing Street, London, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Barnier said earlier that London had raised “substantial” issues with the so-called implementation period as proposed by the bloc.

“Given the intense work that has taken place this week, it is surprising to hear that Michel Barnier is unclear on the UK’s position in relation to the implementation period,” Davis said.

“We are seeking a time-limited period that maintains access to each other’s markets on existing terms.”

Britain’s government is under growing pressure to agree a transition deal with the EU by the end of next month to reassure businesses concerned that it could leave the European Union without a deal next year.

Davis said there is a “fundamental contradiction” in the approach being taken by the European Commission in the talks.

“Today they acknowledged that a way to resolve disputes and infringements is needed,” he said. “Yet at the same time they dismissed the UK’s push for reasonable safeguards to ensure our interests are protected. It is not possible to have it both ways.”

“We must not lose sight of the ultimate aim here — to build a new comprehensive partnership between the UK and the EU that sees us stay as the closest of friends and allies.”

On Thursday, Davis accused the EU of being “discourteous” for publishing a document that shows it has the power to restrict British access to the single market during a transition period.

Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison

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