In a speech to European bankers, the Brussels negotiator said the UK is asking for too much and lamented Boris Johnson’s decision not to extend the transition period beyond the end of the year. The Frenchman claimed British officials are trying to secure “easy” access for the country’s businesses to the bloc’s single market. His intervention comes as David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator with the EU, leads a team of 20 officials in Brussels in a bid to secure a breakthrough in the deadlocked talks.
Mr Barnier told a think tank: “The UK is trying to keep as many single market benefits as it can.
“It would like to make it easy to continue to run EU businesses from London, with minimal operations and staff on the continent.”
Having taken a break from talks with Mr Frost, the eurocrat added: “We now know that the transition period will not be extended.
“The EU was open to an extension, but the UK refused. It is the UK’s choice.”
Mr Barnier also cast doubt over whether City of London bankers can continue trading on the Continent after Brexit.
He said a Brussels decision on “equivalence”, that would allow banks and investment companies to do business in the EU, was delayed because the UK had failed to return the necessary paperwork.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator said: “The European Commission has sent questionnaires to the UK, covering 28 areas where equivalence assessments are possible.
“So far, the UK has only answered four of these questionnaires. We are not there yet.”
But Britain hit out at the EU negotiator, claiming the bloc was behind the delay after sending more than a thousand pages of questions to be answered.
Treasury officials have bemoaned the unnecessary paperwork being demanded by Brussels despite a joint agreement to have the process concluded by today.
A Treasury spokesman said: “Both sides committed to completing equivalence assessments ahead of the summer.
“As the UK and EU start from a position of having similar financial services regulation this should be a straightforward process.
“The UK has been able to complete our own assessments on time and we are now ready to reach comprehensive findings of equivalence as soon as the EU is able to clarify its own position.”
Meanwhile, Angela Merkel is preparing for Brexit talks to run into November as the two sides seek to broker a compromise.
The German Chancellor, who takes over the EU’s rotating presidency tomorrow, has told colleagues she will attempt to convince Mr Johnson to be “more realistic” in order to strike a deal.
A German diplomatic source said: “We need a deal – hopefully in time for the European Council in the middle of October, and if we don’t have one there’s the possibility to extend into November, but this is really it.”