The UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) will take place in March 2019, the UK’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said.
Speaking at a press conference in the Belgian capital of Brussels, Barnier said it would be the UK that makes the decision on the terms of departure.
“We have a choice to leave the European union,” Barnier told reporters.
“We can go to another country, to Canada, to the US, to Australia, to someplace else, and we can go through all the usual processes.”
He said the UK would be allowed to remain within the EU customs union “until the end of March 2019”, and it would also be able to make “an exit” from the single market, which he described as “an economic union” with “no external border” between member states.
“If we leave the customs union, we have the freedom to come to an agreement with the EU, but then we will have to leave.
We will not have a customs union and we will be able enter the customs Union only with a permit,” Barnie said.”
The EU will then have to allow us to leave and, in this way, we can negotiate on the basis of an economic union.
But there is no guarantee.”
Barnier said the EU would also have to take steps to protect EU citizens living in the UK.
“But they will have the choice of staying in the European common market or in the single markets,” Barny said.
Barnier is currently at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, where he is meeting with representatives of the UK government.
The UK has been in the EU since 1973, but its departure would cause a major upheaval in the bloc’s membership of a trading bloc with more than 40 million people.EU citizens have long complained about the way they are treated in the United Kingdom, and in recent years they have begun to organise and take direct action to demand their rights be respected.
Barny also told reporters the UK must be able “to do more to protect the EU’s citizens and to safeguard its interests”.
He said Barnier and other officials had spoken by phone to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who have also expressed their concern about the UK leaving the EU.
“I am convinced that the UK can leave the single currency, the customs unions and the single economic market without any difficulty,” Barni said.