This morning, the EU and the UK opened hostilities in Brexit’s next bruising chapter, laying down tough red lines for a post-divorce future following the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier formally announced his ideas for new ties in Brussels, offering London a deep relationship going forward as long as Britain makes guarantees to trade fairly. The former French minister said fisheries and fair trade would be his top priorities in the 11 months of talks, with a special focus on denying Britain “unfair competitive advantages”.
However, Mr Barnier’s vision flew in the face of that of Mr Johnson, who this morning insisted in another press conference that Britain’s alignment with Europeans on rules and regulations defies the spirit of Brexit and is a thing of the past.
As fears the trade talks could turn into one of the biggest showdown yet in terms of the UK-EU relationship because of the French politician’s anti-British sentiment, former Labour MP and Brexiteer Gisela Stuart recalled the time she spent working in Brussels alongside Mr Barnier and gave a frank assessment about his negotiating skills.
While discussing the deadlock before Mr Johnson won a thumping majority in the December 12 general election, Ms Stuart told Express.co.uk: “It is always very easy to blame the EU.
“In this occasion, if you look a the way Michel Barnier has conducted himself, and I have worked in the past with him, he has been very straightforward.
Gisela Stuart’s frank assessment of Michel Barnier as EU negotiator revealed (Image: GETTY)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Image: GETTY)
“He followed his mandate.”
The ex-Labour MP added: “We made terrible mistakes, particularly at the beginning.
“We agreed on a timetable which suited the EU, not us.
“We should have taken the negotiations of Northern Ireland out of the main negotiations and made them a separate Treaty.
“But having said all of that, if you have to find the biggest lock... it was Parliament.
“It could always agree on what they didn’t like, they couldn’t agree on anything they did like.
“It was that that caused the deadlock, mainly.”
Ms Stuart was appointed as one of the UK Parliamentary Representatives to the European Convention in 2001, which was tasked with drawing up a new constitution for the EU.