When asked which side of the court “the ball is in”, the EU’s chief negotiator curtly replied that Brexit talks “are not a game – don’t forget that”.
Michael Barnier made the comments following a lunch with the Brexit Secretary David Davis in Brussels, as “constructive” negotiations continue.
The comments came after Theresa May’s Florence speech when the UK Prime Minister claimed that the ball was in the UK’s court.
The spokesperson for the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, continued the tennis-based metaphor by saying yesterday: “This is not exactly a ball game,”
“We do not provide comment on comments. What I can remind you of is that there is a clear sequencing to these talks. There has been, so far, no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings, so the ball is entirely in the UK’s court for the rest to happen.”
This marks the seconds day of talks in the fifth round. Next week it will be decided if there has been enough progress made to move talks onto the UK’s future trade relations.
Theresa May updated MPs in the House of Commons earlier this week, saying: “Achieving that partnership [with the EU] will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU. And as we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic we will receive a positive response.”
The Prime Minister continued to say to MPs that she believed “real and tangible” progress had been made in the negotiations.
“Strong statement from PM on Brexit – let’s be pragmatic over implementation to secure maximum freedom to diverge from EU in end state,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove said on Twitter.
Britain is on track to leave the European Union by the end of March 2019.