© Pierre Jans / RTL Radio Lëtzebuerg
At a press conference with Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit asserted that the UK is responsible for enacting Brexit.
Barnier met with Xavier Bettel briefly as part of a working visit before returning to Brussels to meet with Stephen Barclay, the UK Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
At the press conference, the EU's chief negotiator was candid. He said clearly that the United Kingdom alone is responsible for leaving the European Union. As for the D-Day of 29 March, he reminded the public that Theresa May herself had chosen that date.
As Barnier explained, the EU is waiting for London to move on with the process. The point of the much-contested backstop is to provide a type of insurance concerning the Irish border. The key issue concerning the Irish border is to guarantee peace and not break the terms of the Good Friday agreement.
Barnier also explained that the EU wants to protect its internal market and be able to guarantee its ability to check products coming from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland. The EU is generally ready to begin an ambitious partnership with the United Kingdom, but requires the political willpower of the British government in order to do so.
Luxembourgish prime minister Xavier Bettel reiterated Barnier's main point, explaining that Brexit was not the EU's choice or decision, and the responsibility to carry it out is consequently not on the European Union's one. He spoke of Brexiteers anxious to push Brexit forward, claiming they no longer have any logical arguments. He also believes that politicians lack the courage to pursue the People's Vote, which would revisit the question of Brexit in a second referendum.
With only seven weeks to go until 29 March, the question of an extension is one that many have discussed. On his part, Barnier confirmed he had not yet received a request from London to extend Article 50. Regardless, if the request comes in, the heads of state of the EU member-states will be the ones to decide on the matter.