Brexit talks are “not a game”, the EU’s chief negotiator has warned, after being asked which side of the court he believes the “ball is in”.
Michel Barnier made the comments to broadcasters on Tuesday after of a lunch with Brexit Secretary David Davis at the British residence in Brussels.
His comments come after Theresa May said her Florence speech meant EU had to give ground in negotiations and that “the ball’s in their court”.
On his way out of the British residence, Mr Barnier was asked whose side of the court the ball was in, and replied: “Brexit is not a game, don’t forget that.”
He also said that talks had been “constructive” with Mr Davis, but that it was “not the first time, not the last time”.
Yesterday chief spokesperson for the European Commission Margaritis Schinas also took issue with the PM’s tennis metaphor.
“This is not exactly a ball game,” Margaritis Schinas, the commission’s chief spokesperson had told reporters in Brussels.
“We do not provide comment on comments. What I can remind you of is that there is a clear sequencing to these talks. There has been, so far, no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings, so the ball is entirely in the UK’s court for the rest to happen.”
Mr Barnier’s comments come on the second day of talks in the fifth round – the final time the two negotiation teams will meet before a crunch European Council summit later this month.
British officials stationed in Brussels say the pair dined on sea bass and roast beef, accompanied by English and French wine.
Ms May went to the House of Commons on Monday to update MPs on the situation.
She told the Commons: “Achieving that partnership [with the EU] will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU. And as we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic we will receive a positive response.”
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