Friday

24th Nov 2017

Barnier sets price for hard Brexit

  • "There is no sense in making the consequences of Brexit even worse," said Michel Barnier, the EU's Brexit negotiator. (Photo: European Commission)

No customs union between the UK and the EU will be possible if the UK does not want to respect single market rules, and a failure to reach a divorce deal would send the UK back to "a distant past", the EU's Brexit negotiator has warned.

"There is no reasonable justification for the ‘no deal’ scenario. There is no sense in making the consequences of Brexit even worse," Michel Barnier said on Thursday (6 July).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He said that a no deal scenario would mean "very cumbersome procedures and controls, without facilitation, which would be particularly damaging for companies that operate on a ‘just-in-time’ basis".

He pointed out that under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, there would be customs duties of "almost 10 percent on vehicle imports, an average of 19 percent for alcoholic beverages, and an average of 12 percent on lamb and fish," adding that the EU is the UK's biggest export market for these products.

He also said that British manufacturers that export to the EU would face increased transport costs because they would have to keep their products in stock for 3 or 4 days instead of a few hours, and rent warehouse space.

"In practice, ‘no deal’ would worsen the ‘lose-lose’ situation which is bound to result from Brexit. And the UK would have more to lose than its partners," Barnier insisted.

The French politician was speaking to businesses, trade unions and civil society representatives at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels, said he was still "not sure" whether consequences of Brexit "have been fully understood across the Channel."

Ten days before the first week-long round of talks, which will start on 17 July in Brussels, the EU negotiator laid out the almost inextricable situation faced by the UK government.

'Not possible'

"I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and keep all of its benefits - that is not possible," he said.

He added that leaving "the single market and [building] a customs union to achieve 'frictionless trade'" is also "not possible."

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

But by leaving the EU, he added, the UK will "move to the other side of the external border that delineates not only the customs union but also the area in which the rules of the internal market are adopted."

Barnier also warned that, contrary to the hopes of some Brexit supporters in the UK, "there can be no sector by sector participation in the single market," for instance for the automobile industry or financial services.

"You cannot be half-in and half-out of the single market," he said.

Echoing German chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU negotiator stressed that the "most important" issue for the EU is not Brexit but "the future of Europe".

'Time flies'

He also insisted that his job was to "limit the cost of Brexit for the 27 as much as possible."

That would leave the UK with no option other than making "rapid and sufficient progress" on the three priorities set by the EU: citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border issue.

Amid talks in British media that UK prime minister Theresa May would be ready to walk out of talks on the financial settlement - the money the UK will have to pay as part of its EU commitments - Barnier insisted that progress will be needed on the three issues "together", before talks on future relations can start.

Barnier said that everyone should stay "calm" and without "any aggressiveness or arrogance".

As negotiations will start more than three months after May triggered the 2-year negotiating period, Barnier also warned that "time flies" until 29 March 2019, when Brexit will happen automatically.

"The real transition period began on 29 March 2017, the day on which the UK presented its notification letter," he said, referring to the Article 50 notification to leave the EU.

UK agrees to EU conditions on Brexit talks

In their first meeting, the EU's Michel Barnier and Brexit minister David Davis agreed that talks on future relations will start only when "sufficient progress" has been made on divorce proceedings.

UK leaves fishing convention amid Brexit talks

The UK announced it would leave the London fisheries convention, which allows mutual fishing close to the coast, arguing that it is taking back control of its waters. But Brussels warns: Brexit talks will decide that.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May's call to compromise helps mask party disunity

In a speech on Tuesday, the UK prime minister is expected to urge Labour and other opposition parties to “come forward with your own views and ideas” on what post-Brexit Britain should look like.

Trade talks could only start post-Brexit

Substantive negotiations on an EU-UK free trade deal would only start once Brexit is a reality. The main issue could be how much the UK would want to retain elements of the single market, and what the EU agrees to.

Irish crisis may complicate Brexit summit

Snap elections are on the horizon in Ireland over the future of Irish PM's right-hand woman, three weeks before Irish PM is due in Brussels for a crucial Brexit vote.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition