In an outburst that triggered irritation in Whitehall, the EU chief negotiator claimed there were still “significant points of disagreement” about the UK’s transition arrangements for leaving the bloc.
He also threatened to scrap the proposed transition period, expected to be up to two years, unless the row could be resolved quickly.
“The clock is ticking,” the Brussels diplomat said at a news conference.
He added: “Time is short. I am concerned because of the shortage of time between now and the autumn when we are going to have to conclude an agreement with the UK.”
EU officials are understood to be concerned that Mr Davis, the EU Exit Secretary, has not held talks with Mr Barnier in Brussels this year.
Michel Barnier seems concerned that talks are not accelerating in the run up to an agreement
Barnier cited ‘significant points of disagreement’ as cause for concern
It’s essential we make progress by means of political discussion, political negotiation
But a source close to the Tory Cabinet minister dismissed their complaints.
“They saw each other in London just a couple of weeks ago,” the source said, adding that Mr Davis planned to visit the Belgian capital for further Brexit talks “in the next few weeks”.
Talks between EU and UK officials to thrash out the details of the so-called “implementation period” after the official Brexit date in March next year have been continuing in Brussels this week.
Mr Barnier also rejected Theresa May’s latest Brexit plans, agreed by senior Cabinet ministers at Chequers last week, as “an illusion”.
He said Brussels would not accept Britain diverging from EU regulations or diluting the rights of EU citizens to settle in Britain during the implementation period.
Speaking at a Brussels press conference, Mr Barnier said: “There are significant points of disagreement with the UK as to what we understand by transition, the conditions for such and the dimensions for such a transition.”
He warned: “In the light of these disagreements, we have not achieved the transition yet.
“On all of these points of disagreement, I am happy to discuss these matters straight away with David Davis. It’s essential we make progress by means of political discussion, political negotiation.”
He claimed it was “obvious” that the UK would have to comply with all EU rules and regulations during the implementation period
“As far as we are concerned, we can’t accept the risk of regulatory divergence during the transition period,” he said.
A meeting ‘straightaway’ is what Barnier feels is best
“During the transition, clearly, the free movement of persons must be maintained, which means that citizens who arrive before and during the transition period should be treated equitably and in the same manner.”
Mr Barnier repeated his warning that Britain could not pick certain rules to obey and other to ignore.
“It is illusory to imagine a situation in which we would accept cherry-picking,” he said.
“We are responsible for guaranteeing the integrity of the single market. The UK knows what the rules are which underpin that integrity, because they have been helping us put them together for the last 40 years.”
The EU is today expected to publish a draft withdrawal treaty setting out its negotiating position for the long-term relationship with the UK.
Mr Barnier said the document would be 120 pages long with 168 paragraphs and “would not contain suprises”.
A Downing Street spokesman played down the apparent stalemate between London and Brussels last night.
“During a negotiation, you would not expect the sides to immediately agree on everything.
“What is absolutely clear is that both the UK and the EU agree that an implementation period is beneficial and we are working to reach agreement in March.
“That is in the interests of both business and individuals in the UK and the EU 27. We await the publication of the draft text and then we will be in a position to respond,” the spokesman said.
Rejecting the EU’s complaint about Mr Davis’s lack of presence in Brussels, the spokesman added: “They talk on a regular basis.”