Infighting between members of the UK government is slowing down Brexit negotiations, according to the European parliament.
A resolution on the lack of sufficient progress on Brexit negotiations was passed overwhelmingly by the parliament, following a plenary debate.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michael Barnier, welcomed prime minister Theresa May’s call for a transitional period, telling the assembled Strasbourg parliament that he and his team had expected it.
The EU has said more progress needs to be made on EU citizen’s rights in the UK, the Irish border and a financial settlement before a trade deal could be discussed.
He further rejected statements, made by UKIP and Conservative MEPs that the UK was being held to ransom, as “revenge” or “punishment” for choosing to leave the EU.
A lengthy debate was held in parliament on Tuesday morning, with MEPs from across the continent calling for more to be done to ensure the UK’s exit is smooth.
Despite wide-scale disagreement between far-right members and others on the floor, criticism of Mrs May’s handling of Brexit gained almost unanimous cross-party support among UK members.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith compared her premiership to that of a viking long-boat being pushed to sea, while UKIP MEP Gerard Bratten said Mrs May “didn’t have a clue”, nor did she have the courage to see Brexit through.
Nigel Farage MEP, said: “Brexit cannot be stopped. It is time that members of the Conservative party in Manchester say in public what they have been saying to me in private – Theresa May is a waste of space.”
Conservative MEP Julie Girling hit back at Mr Farage and other far right politicians by saying they were driving the UK over a cliff-edge by pushing for a “no deal” to be made by the time the UK leaves the EU, which was being driven by their “diminishing testosterone levels”.
Mr Barnier said the UK was not being made to pay a fine for leaving, but was being asked to “settle its account”.
He said: “We need the support of confidence and unity (from the European parliament) which the vast majority has shown.
“There are two things that I cannot accept, the words revenge and punishment.
“I have always had a great admiration for the UK.
“At the age of 21, in 1972, I voted to approve the succession of the UK into the European community.
“There is no exit bill. When you choose to leave, you have to settle your account.
“Before future trade deals are discussed, we need confidence and you need to settle the account.
“We are also not dragging our heels. The referendum was held in 2016 and we received the letter of intent from Mrs May in March 2017. We are not playing for time, and I cannot accept that criticism.
He continued: “I am prepared to speed up negotiations to the greatest extent.
“There is not much time between now and October 2018 and the settlement of the treaty.”
He added that during the transitional period, the entire legal structure involved with being a member state of the EU would remain in place for the UK.
MEPs voted to say negotiations had not made sufficient progress to begin trade talks by 557 votes to 92, with 29 abstentions.
The resolution sets out the European parliament’s input to the October 20 EU27 summit in Brussels, when government leaders will assess Brexit negotiation progress.
Any withdrawal agreement at the end of the negotiations between the UK and the EU will need to win the approval of the European Parliament.