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EU's chief Brexit negotiator worried about negotiations

FILE PHOTO: EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends the MEDEF union summer forum "La Rencontre des Entrepreneurs de France, LaREF", at the Paris Longchamp Racecourse in Paris, France, August 26, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that negotiations on future relations were difficult and declined to comment on a report Britain was planning legislation to override parts of the divorce deal.

In what would be one of the most startling turns of the four-year Brexit saga, the Financial Times reported that Britain could effectively discard major parts of last year’s Withdrawal Agreement unless the bloc agrees to a free trade deal by Oct. 15.

“We demand quite simply, and calmly, and until the end, that the political commitments in the text agreed by (British Prime Minister) Boris Johnson be legally translated into this treaty,” Barnier told France Inter radio.

If implemented, Britain’s reported move could jeopardise the pact and cause frictions in Northern Ireland.

The agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol was important to ensuring there was no physical customs border between Ireland and the province of Northern Ireland, Barnier said.

It was also, he added, “the condition of a unified and functioning economy on the island (of Ireland) as well as for respecting the integrity of the EU’s single market.”

“I remain worried,” Barnier said of the negotiations, adding that Johnson’s government wanted “the best of two worlds”.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Writing by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Cawthorne