Friday

22nd Jun 2018

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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

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.

May defends proposal on EU citizens' rights

“We want you to stay”, British leader Theresa May told EU nationals on Monday, but the UK's "settled status" plan lacked "ambition", the EU said.

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.

EU tells UK to stop with Brexit 'fantasies'

After the latest round of Brexit talks, a senior EU official sounded the alarm bell: progress on the key Irish border issue remains elusive, while the London government is chasing pipe dreams.

Visual Data

Mediterranean towns ready for EU-sponsored free wifi

The European Union's fund for free wireless internet connection hotspots is most popular in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Romania. Check if your municipality pre-registered.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us