Britain must stop pressing for immediate parallel talks with the European Union on a post-Brexit free trade deal, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday. As David Pollard reports, the rebuff could make the UK's attempts to seek out new trade partners even more urgent.
The flag still flies outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg. But the chamber itself is becoming less tolerant of Britain's demands for talks on Brexit and talks on trade to be held at the same time. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) EU BREXIT CHIEF NEGOTIATOR, MICHEL BARNIER, SAYING: "The UK letter makes clear that the UK Government will push for parallel negotiations on the withdrawal and the future relations. This is a very risky approach." That response provoking an angrier one from one of Britain's chief Brexiteers. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) EUROPE OF FREEDOM AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP LEADER, NIGEL FARAGE, SAYING: "You have shown yourselves with this demands to be vindictive, to be nasty, all I can say, 'Thank goodness we're leaving'." But this rebuff from the EU could make Britain's mission to get new trade partners even more urgent. Even as Theresa May tours the Middle East. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, THERESA MAY, SAYING: "I was clear in the letter that I sent to Donald Tusk when I triggered Article 50, that if we don't get a deal we fall back on WTO arrangements for trade. I don't think that's in the interests of either side, that's why we'll both be working to ensure we get the best possible deal." If that is possible. Leaving the EU may be better with no deal rather than a bad deal, May has said. But that approach seen as increasingly questionable by some economists back home. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT, 7IM, JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, SAYING: "Going around the world trying to garner other trading support - Saudi Arabia may be very valuable, but it's never going to make up for trade with the EU. And if you add to that Australia and New Zealand, these are still going to be very small in comparison." Though not perhaps the much larger economies of China or India. May's finance minister Philip Hammond currently in New Delhi on his mission - in his words, to bring the world's oldest democracy together with its largest - in a new post-Brexit relationship.