Michel Barnier: EU will not accept à la carte approach - including to single market
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, says the EU “will not be intimidated” by the UK in the ongoing talks.
Michel Barnier | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
Addressing a news conference in Brussels on Friday, Barnier said there was a risk of a “blame game” emerging with both the UK and EU at risk of blaming each other in the event of the Brexit talks not progressing at the desired pace.
Barnier said, “The UK has decided to leave the EU and we respect that decision but at the same time the UK has to accept the consequences of its decision. That is why there needs to be more trust and reality about what will be possible and what is not possible in the negotiations.”
His comments come ahead of a crunch EU summit in Brussels at the end of the month, where the EU hopes to resolve matters such as the Irish border issue.
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He said, “We have two weeks before this summit so I hope we will put those two weeks to good use.”
He warned, though, “We do not accept an à la carte approach, including to the single market.”
Barnier said the two sides had made progress but that a lot remains to be done, particularly on three subjects which, he said, were “very serious for business and citizens.”
These include protection of EU data for citizens and geographical indications, where he said a “lot needs to be done and we still have no UK position even though it is very important for producers, including those in the UK.”
Outstanding EU infringement proceedings against the UK, including on state aid, is the third issue, he said.
“Beyond these there are two other areas of major disagreements: governance of the withdrawal agreement, and questions on Northern Ireland.
“On Ireland, we have focused on regulatory alignment and I call on all sides to be pragmatic because we really need to have common rules.”
Barnier said he had again visited the province recently and “everyone I met said it is important to be able to move around freely and trade freely.”
Another yet to be resolved key area, he said, concerned customs matters.
On this, he said he had carefully studied the customs paper the UK government had submitted on Thursday which he said he welcomed.
He added, “It is good to see the UK engaging with us and we are examining the paper objectively.
“But it raises more difficult questions which will require further discussion.”
The British proposal would see the UK match EU trade tariffs temporarily.
It would be used if a permanent customs deal is not in place at the end of the 21-month Brexit transition period, with the aim of avoiding a hard Irish border.
But Barnier said, “It is an all-weather backstop? The EU backstop provides an answer but the UK is taking a different position. Our backstop cannot be extended to the whole of the UK because it is designed specifically for Northern Ireland.”
He said the UK backstop plan is not a “full backstop” because it “does not address regulatory concerns” and he asked if the UK will agree to be bound by EU regulations during the backstop period. The UK says it wants to leave EU regulation, he said.
Barnier also questopmed if the backstop would last.
He added, “We will not leave this issue unresolved and need it resolved by the autumn.”
Barnier will meet David Davis, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, on Monday and said he will raise these points at the meeting. He added, “But a temporary backstop is not what we or, I believe, the Northern Irish people, want.”
He also declined to be drawn into the controversy surrounding UK foreign minister Boris Johnson’s reported comments at a private dinner on Thursday that the UK was heading for a “Brexit meltdown”.
Barnier told reporters, “I am always very stimulated at what he says but I will not comment on these comments.”
He also said, “We will respect the British red lines and it would be nice if the UK would respect them too.”
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