EU's Brexit negotiator tells Britain: "face up to the hard facts"

EU Throws Down Gauntlet to May

The European Union offered Britain "solidarity" yesterday after London accused Russian Federation of a nerve agent attack on British soil, but held off any threat of new sanctions as Prime Minister Theresa May considers her own response. To do so is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland, who have worked so hard to bring peace to our country.

"The idea of punishing Britain is not the language of a club, it's the language of a gang", he said at the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Britain is still yet to put forward an "official proposal" to the European Union and Mrs May's Mansion House speech, and its content, was already known by the bloc for two years, according to Mr Verhofstadt.

He said: 'Mrs May, we did not vote for a transition period, we voted to leave this organisation, we voted to leave the customs union, we voted to leave the single market. Discussions over the relationship are set to intensify over the coming months and are earmarked to conclude by the fall to give parliaments time to assess any deal.

Financial services firms in Britain would suffer the biggest hit because, unlike some automotive and aerospace firms that can switch to domestic suppliers of components, they will have to set up new operations in the European Union to continue serving clients.

That ambition has been dismissed by many in the European Union as "cherry-picking".

Ending his own speech by slapping the table in front of him, Juncker said: "We need to focus on our European future".

"It's the first time we negotiate a trade agreement in order to make trade conditions worse".

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"I recommend that we keep a close eye on the regulatory divergence, this dumping", he said, warning that it could become a key obstacle if Britain wants to get a smooth exit from the EU.

Britain is due to leave the bloc in March 2019.

But May says she is not prepared to renegotiate Britain's current deal with the European Union and expats already in the United Kingdom should expect different treatment from those that arrive after Brexit.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said he was "surprised" that the prime minister had expected it to accept her demands in the Mansion House speech.

If border posts return to Northern Ireland they will be attacked, according to the Taoiseach.

Mr. Juncker says both sides have agreed that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland and that must be respected.

European Council president Donald Tusk has threatened to freeze Brexit talks, insisting that the sequence of negotiations must be "Ireland first".

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