Barnier: Leaving customs union will cause barriers to trade

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

Theresa May's decision to leave the EU's customs union will cause "unavoidable" barriers to trade, Michel Barnier has warned.

The European Union's chief negotiator visited Downing Street for talks with Theresa May and Brexit secretary David Davis in which he pushed for greater clarity about the UK's approach to the next phase of the process.

His visit to London came as Number 10 ruled out remaining in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

Mr Barnier said that "without a customs union and outside the single market", barriers to trade in goods and services "are unavoidable".

Mr Davis said the talks had been "very constructive" and the next round would focus on the implementation period.

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An "intense" period of negotiations will begin straightaway and the government was "confident" of securing an agreement at the next meeting of EU leaders in March, he said.

Mr Barnier said the EU needed clarity about what the UK wanted in terms of its future relations with the bloc.

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"The conditions are very clear, everyone has to play by the same rules during this transition," he said.

"The certainty about this transition will only come with the ratification of the withdrawal agreement."

He added: "Our future partnership between the UK and EU, on that point we need also clarity about the UK proposals for future partnership.

"The only thing I can say, without a customs union and outside the single market barriers to trade on goods and services are unavoidable. The time has come to make a choice."

Mr Davis said the UK wanted a comprehensive free trade agreement while still having the opportunity to make deals across the rest of the world.

He said: "It's perfectly clear what we want to do. There's no doubt about it, we are leaving the customs union but we are aiming for a good future for Britain."

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