Chief EU Negotiator Styles May’s Brexit Plan ‘Legally Unfeasible’, Bureaucratic
The chief Brexit negotiator of the European Union, Michel Barnier, has criticized the Brexit plan of UK Prime Minister Theresa May over a wide range of concerns such as potentially being not “legally feasible” and creating enormous additional bureaucracy.
The recent adoption of May’s Chequers plan on Brexit has already caused plenty of controversies in Britain as it has forced her to reshuffle much of the Cabinet after the resignations of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Among other stipulations, the plan (the Brexit White Paper) provides for Britain to remain in the European single market on goods, though not on services, with the UK and the EU remaining a “combined customs territory” after Brexit.
Even before May convinced her Cabinet to stand behind her Brexit plan, EU officials had cautioned that such a decoupling of goods and services in the post-Brexit UK – EU ties would contradict the rules of the EU single market, and would cause the proposal to be turned down.
Speaking in Brussels after a meeting with EU national ministers on Friday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Frenchman Michel Barnier, pointed out a number of concerns the Union had with May’s blueprint, The Independent reports.
The British Prime Minister’s proposals on customs control and single market regulations for goods are seen by the EU as especially problematic.
According to Barnier, May’s complicated proposal for customs would likely create huge amounts of new paperwork.
“Brexit cannot and will not justify additional bureaucracy. There’s no justification for us to create additional burdens on business just because the UK wants to leave,” Barnier told reporters in Brussels.
He took apart May’s plan to keep the UK following a “common rulebook” of EU single market rules for goods, which the British Prime Minister had hoped would allow unproblematic trade with the Union.
Justifying previous warnings by EU officials, Barnier said the decoupling of goods and services, in which the UK’s vast services sector would not be subject to EU rules, was a matter of concern as it would likely give a “significant competitive advantage” to Britain.
According to the EU negotiator, agreeing to such a policy might not be in the EU’s own best interests.
He also suggested it would be unreasonable to exclude some goods such as animal feed from the rulebook, as proposed by the UK side, stating:
“We have a duty of care to protect consumers in the single market and on which basis could we accept the free circulation of goods?” Barnier said regarding the British suggestion to exclude some goods such as animal feed from the rulebook.
The chief negotiator also made it clear the EU could not delegate collection of its own customs duties to a country that was not a member state. Thus, he suggested that one of the focal points of May’s Brexit plan might not even be “legally feasible”.
Barnier also worries that there would be “practical problems” with the plan’s potential implementation, determining which tariff to apply to goods, and that there was “major risk of fraud”.
Regardless of the points of criticism he outlined, the EU negotiator did not reject the British Brexit plan in full, arguing that it was positive in many ways.
Major advantages of the plan, in his view, are the fact that the UK is willing to sign up to EU “level playing field” competition rules, the creation of a free trade agreement, and provisions on security cooperation.
”If you look at the political situation today we have many reasons to keep and protect our single market, find ways of cooperating with the UK, whilst respecting their decision to leave the EU and looking at the red lines of the UK. They’re the ones who established the red lines,“ Barnier said in what has been the first response from the EU to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit White Paper.
The EU negotiator restated the Union’s earlier demands that the UK needed to agree to a “backstop” solution to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if it wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Barnier also emphasized that the EU and the UK had only 13 weeks of negotiations left.
(Banner image: Michel Barnier on Twitter)