Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Barnier sets the price for hard Brexit

Lance Thomas | 07 July, 2017, 00:28

Michel Barnier also doubted whether Britain "fully understood" the consequences of its vote to leave the European Union in March 2019.

He said that Ms May's negotiating position, including abolishing free movement, striking free trade deals and scrapping any role for the European Court of Justice, implied the United Kingdom is leaving both the single market and the customs union.

A Downing Street spokesman said the UK's position was that it would secure "the most frictionless possible trade" between the United Kingdom and the European Union, adding that London's position is clear when asked if Ms May understood the EU's stance.

There's been talk in the highly fluid political scene in Westminster of trying to explore cross-party support for a transitional phase that keeps the United Kingdom in the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Michel Barnier took a tough position on the Brexit negotiations Thursday, warning there will be "negative" consequences no matter what.

"On the European Union side, we made three things very clear: the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital are indivisible". We can not let the single market unravel.

Barnier explained that a "frictionless trade" would only be possible with "the combination of the customs union and the rules of the internal market".

"These consequences are the direct result of the choice made by the United Kingdom, not by the EU".

But Mr Barnier said Mrs May's "red lines" for a future trade relationship meant the United Kingdom was definitely leaving the single market and the customs union.

Despite his ominous tone, Barnier stressed: "There is no punishment for Brexit".

He pointed out that access to the internal market without the customs union, as happens in the European Economic Area, still requires EEA members Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein to comply with a system of procedures and customs controls; similarly, Turkey's customs agreement with the EU, without access to the internal market, has an implied system of procedures and customs controls as well.

Two weeks ago at the EU Council meeting, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in answer to a question asking if he was clearer now on the United Kingdom position on Brexit snapped back: "no".

Downing Street said the Government did understand the EU's position and was focused on "getting a deal that works for both sides" but acknowledged there were "strong feelings" in Brussels about the result of the Brexit referendum.

The French politician said he was ready for the talks to fail, but said "no deal" would be damaging, especially for Britain, and saw "no reasonable justification" for it. "There is no reason further to worsen the consequences of Brexit".

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