Theresa May's Brexit proposals 'not workable, basically' says EU's Michel Barnier

By On September 07, 2018

Theresa May's Brexit proposals 'not workable, basically' says EU's Michel Barnier

The EU’s chief negotiator has explicitly written off Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan for customs and regulations as unworkable, in a further sign that the proposals are dead.

But Michel Barnier insisted he did not “just reject the white paper outright” and instead had highlighted “two major problems” which he specifically said made the PM’s plan unacceptable to the EU.

The comments were made at a private meeting between Mr Barnier and MPs on the Commons Brexit Committee on Monday; a transcript of the meeting was released on Friday by the Commons authorities.

The senior EU official said there were “lots of positive things” in the white paper, but that fundamental problems meant that “your proposal does not seem workable to us, basically”.

Ministers have said categorically that the choice in Brexit talks is between the acceptance of Chequers and a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Barnier re-iterated to the MPs what he has repeatedly said in public: that the EU would not accept splitting up aspects of the single market, and that it would not delegate EU customs duties to British officials once the UK was no longer a member state.

There was a mild Westminster row about Mr Barnier’s appearance at the committee meeting after Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who was present, said Mr Barnier had made it clear that “Chequers is dead in the water” and “completely unacceptable to the EU”.

I did not just reject the White Paper outright; that is just not true. I hope that you will understand that.
Michel Barnier

The transcript of the meeting was released in order to clarify what had or had not been said at the meeting, as the Government still insists that its proposals have a chance.

Asked by the committee’s chair whether Chequers was “not going to fly” or “dead in the water”, Mr Barnier responded:

“First of all, let me say once again, unlike what I have seen and heard over recent days, following a rather too brief reading of my interview to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, basically in the White Paper there are lots of positive things, lots of useful things, just to make that absolutely clear.

Brexit talks: Top issues facing UK on leaving EU

8 show all Brexit talks: Top issues facing UK on leaving EU

1/8 Post-Brexit immigration

workers sorting radishes on a production line at a farm in Norfolk. One possible post-Brexit immigration scheme could struggle to channel workers towards less attractive roles - while another may heighten the risk of labour exploitation, a new report warns. PA

2/8 Customs union

A key point in the negotiations remains Britain's access to, or withdrawal from, the EU customs union. Since the referendum there has been hot debate over the meaning of Brexit: would it entail a full withdrawal from the existing agreement, known as hard Brexit, or the soft version in which we would re main part of a common customs area for most goods, as Turkey does? No 10 has so far insisted that “Brexit means Brexit” and that Britain will be leaving the customs union, but may be inclined to change its position once the potential risks to the UK’s economic outlook become clearer. Alamy

3/8 Northern Ireland-Irish border

Though progress was made last year, there has still been no solid agreement on whether there should be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. To ensure borderless travel on the island, the countries must be in regulatory alignment and therefore adhere to the same rules as the customs union. In December, the Conservative Party’s coalition partners, the DUP, refused a draft agreement that would place the UK/EU border in the Irish Sea due to its potential to undermine the union. May has promised that would not be the case and has suggested that a “specific solution” would need to be found. Getty

4/8 Transition period

Despite protests from a small number of Conservative MPs, the Government and the EU are largely in agreement that a transitional period is needed after Brexit. The talks, however, have reached an impasse. Though May has agreed that the UK will continue to contribute to the EU budget until 2021, the PM wants to be able to select which laws made during this time the UK will have to adhere to. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the UK must adopt all of the laws passed during the transition, without any input from British ministers or MEPs. EPA

5/8 Rights of EU citizens living the UK

The Prime Minister has promised EU citizens already living in the UK the right to live and work here after Brexit, but the rights of those who arrive after Brexit day remains unclear. May insists that those who arrive during the transition period should not be allowed to stay, whereas the EU believe the cut-off point should be later. Getty

6/8 Future trade agreement (with the EU)

Despite this being a key issue in negotiations, the Government has yet to lay out exactly what it wants from a trade deal with the EU. Infighting within the Cabinet has prevented a solid position from being reached, with some MPs content that "no deal is better than a bad deal" while others rally behind single market access. The EU has already confirmed that access to the single market would be impossible without the UK remaining in the customs union. Getty

7/8 Future trade agreements (internationally)

The Government has already begun trying to woo foreign leaders into prospective trade agreements, with various high profile state visits to China, India and Canada for May, and the now infamous invitation to US President Donald Trump to visit London. However the UK cannot make trade agreements with another country while it is still a member of the EU, and the potential loss of trade with the world's major powers is a source of anxiety for the PM. The EU has said the UK cannot secure trade deals during the transition period. EPA

8/8 Financial services

Banks in the UK will be hit hard regardless of the Brexit outcome. The EU has refused to give British banks passporting rights to trade within the EU, dashing hopes of a special City deal. However according to new reports Germany has suggested allowing trade on the condition that the UK continues paying into the EU budget even after the transition period. Getty

1/8 Post-Brexit immigration

workers sorting radishes on a production line at a farm in Norfolk. One possible post-Brexit immigration scheme could struggle to channel workers towards less attractive roles - while another may height en the risk of labour exploitation, a new report warns. PA

2/8 Customs union

A key point in the negotiations remains Britain's access to, or withdrawal from, the EU customs union. Since the referendum there has been hot debate over the meaning of Brexit: would it entail a full withdrawal from the existing agreement, known as hard Brexit, or the soft version in which we would remain part of a common customs area for most goods, as Turkey does? No 10 has so far insisted that “Brexit means Brexit” and that Britain will be leaving the customs union, but may be inclined to change its position once the potential risks to the UK’s economic outlook become clearer. Alamy

3/8 Northern Ireland-Irish border

Though progress was made last year, there has still been no solid agreement on whether there should be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. To ensure borderless travel on the island, the countries must be in regulatory alignment and therefore adhere to the same rules as the customs union. In December, the Conservative Party’s coalition partners, the DUP, refused a draft agreement that would place the UK/EU border in the Irish Sea due to its potential to undermine the union. May has promised that would not be the case and has suggested that a “specific solution” would need to be found. Getty

4/8 Transition period

Despite protests from a small number of Cons ervative MPs, the Government and the EU are largely in agreement that a transitional period is needed after Brexit. The talks, however, have reached an impasse. Though May has agreed that the UK will continue to contribute to the EU budget until 2021, the PM wants to be able to select which laws made during this time the UK will have to adhere to. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the UK must adopt all of the laws passed during the transition, without any input from British ministers or MEPs. EPA

5/8 Rights of EU citizens living the UK

The Prime Minister has promised EU citizens already living in the UK the right to live and work here after Brexit, but the rights of those who arrive after Brexit day remains unclear. May insists that those who arrive during the transition period should n ot be allowed to stay, whereas the EU believe the cut-off point should be later. Getty

6/8 Future trade agreement (with the EU)

Despite this being a key issue in negotiations, the Government has yet to lay out exactly what it wants from a trade deal with the EU. Infighting within the Cabinet has prevented a solid position from being reached, with some MPs content that "no deal is better than a bad deal" while others rally behind single market access. The EU has already confirmed that access to the single market would be impossible without the UK remaining in the customs union. Getty

7/8 Future trade agreements (internationally)

The Government has already begun trying to woo foreign leaders into prospective trade agreements, with various high profile state visits to China, India and Canada for May, and the now infamous invitation to US President Donald Trump to visit London. However the UK cannot make trade agreements with another country while it is still a member of the EU, and the potential loss of trade with the world's major powers is a source of anxiety for the PM. The EU has said the UK cannot secure trade deals during the transition period. EPA

8/8 Financial services

Banks in the UK will be hit hard regardless of the Brexit outcome. The EU has refused to give British banks passporting rights to trade within the EU, dashing hopes of a special City deal. However according to new reports Germany has suggested allowing trade on the condition that the UK continues paying into the EU budget even after the transition period. Getty

“I did not just reject the White Paper outright; that is just not true. I hope that you will understand that.

“Secondly, we have two major problems, two issues that we cannot accept. Our customs union, our customs system, as it works, is a fully integrated system that cannot be undermined and we cannot split up the four freedoms of the single market. We are prepared to discuss a customs agreement of some sort that simplifies customs arrangements between the United Kingdom and the EU. Customs co-operation could even be part of a free trade agreement, if it went that far, but we do have a problem with the way in which our customs controls and checks work at the moment.

“There is a clear link between customs controls and regulatory controls and that is not covered in your White Paper. Your proposal does not seem workable to us, basically.”

The UK and EU both say they need to come up with a withdrawal agreement by October/November to avert a no-deal Brexit. The agreement must cover the biggest outstanding issue, Northern Ireland â€" as well as citizens' rights, the financial settlement, and other assorted smaller issues.

The future relationship does not need to be technically agreed in full to prevent a no-deal, though the UK says it wants a framework spelled out by the time it leaves on 29 March 2019 and that MPs would not accept the withdrawal agreement without such a framework. The Government has written into law that there must be a vote on the framework for the future relationship.

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The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here

Source: Google News United Kingdom | Netizen 24 United Kingdom

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