Barnier Rejects Key Aspects of UK Brexit Plan without Declaring It ‘Dead in the Water’
The chief EU negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, did not in fact declare the UK’s Chequers plan “dead in the water” but did reject two of its key aspects, it emerged after a British parliamentary committee published a meeting transcript on Friday.
Barnier ended up in a controversy earlier this week over what he actually said on Monday during a meeting with the UK’s Brexit Committee, which contains both pro and anti-EU MPs.
On Wednesday, Labor MP Stephen Kinnock told the UK’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab that his EU counterpart had said the Chequers package was “dead in the water”.
Before that, Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said Barnier had agreed with him that British Prime Minister May’s blueprint was “complete rubbish”.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the European Commission, which handles the Brexit talks for the EU, cast doubt on the possibility that Barnier might have declared May’s plan “dead in the water”, and reiterated the EU’s position that the British blueprint had some “positive elements”.
The transcript of the hearing contradicts a claim made by the pro-EU British opposition MP that Barnier said the entire proposal was “dead”, AFP reports.
Yet, the EU’s Brexit negotiator made it clear that the EU would not accept London’s proposals for customs arrangements and for a common EU-UK rulebook on goods to ease trade between the sides after Brexit.
“[That] would call into question the very integrity of our single market… That is totally out of the question”, he told the House of Commons Brexit committee at a hearing in Brussels on Monday.
“If there is no operational backstop on Ireland, there will not be an agreement,” Barnier also said with respect to perhaps the thorniest Brexit issue.
The EU proposes that until the issue can be resolved by a new trade deal, Northern Ireland should stay aligned with the EU, a notion completely rejected by the UK which sees that possibility as causing a split in its sovereign territory.
Barnier also told the UK MPs he hoped to agree the divorce deal if not by the original deadline of an October EU summit, then at least by early November 2018.
UK leader May recently promised to make no compromises with her Brexit blueprint, the White Paper also kown as the Chequers plan, even though the EU’s chief negotiator had in essence dismissed some of its key provisions early on.
He reiterated his criticism more recently by stating the UK could not be allowed to “pick the raisins out”of the European single market.
(Banner image: Michel Barnier on Twitter)