Michel Barnier admits Brexit is 'failure of the EU' as MEPs vote on divorce deal
Brexit is a “failure of the European Union”, Brussels' chief negotiator admitted today as Euro MPs prepared to rubber-stamp the divorce deal.
MEPs met to finally to ratify the pact – nearly four months after the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the bloc came into force.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament: "This is a divorce.
“It's a warning, Brexit, and it's a failure – a failure of the European Union.
“And we have to learn lessons from it as politicians here in the European Parliament, in Council, in the Commission, in all of the capitals.
“Why did 52% of the British vote against Europe? There are reasons for that – social anger and tension which existed in many regions in the UK but also in many regions of the EU.
“Our duty is to listen and understand the feelings of the people."
Anger shouldn't be confused with populism", said Mr Barnier, urging the EU to do "everything to respond to that".
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed some MEPs would be reluctant to approve the Brexit trade deal because of the UK's unilateral decision not to fully implement parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which avoids a hard border between the province and the Republic.
The 310-mile frontier is the UK's only land border with the EU.
Ms von der Leyen said there has been "some progress" on resolving the issues around Northern Ireland's post-Brexit arrangements.
But she told MEPs: "I share the concerns you have on unilateral actions by the United Kingdom since the agreement came into provisional application.
“We have obviously seen a number of issues arise since then.
“Some were to be expected, others are teething issues, and many are the consequence of the type of Brexit the UK chose.
“But, regardless of the reasons, we need to focus on joint solutions. Unilateral decisions will get us nowhere."
She warned Brussels "will not hesitate" to use dispute resolution mechanisms in the Brexit deal if the UK breaches the agreement.
Austrian MEP Andreas Schieder, who led the European Parliament foreign affairs committee's work on the UK-EU deal, said: "Brexit is a historic mistake.
“It was pushed through by irresponsible nationalism based on false promises and short-sightedness.
"Brexit is bad for Britain and Brexit is bad for Europe.
"The price is not paid by the Conservative millionaires but by the most vulnerable people in our society."
Manfred Weber, the German leader of the centre-right EPP Group, said: "When I grew up, UK diplomacy was for me a symbol of credibility.
“Today, when we see the Northern Ireland Protocol implementation and how (Boris) Johnson behaves, the message is, 'I don't care, I don't care even about my signature'.
"That's the new Great Britain we have as a partner on our side."
Asked about the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: “We continue to have a number of discussions with our European partners and we are carrying those out in an open way, with good communication on both sides.”
The result of the vote on the deal is expected tomorrow morning.