UK single market access ‘not a realistic option’ without accepting EU rules, Germany warns

Germany moves to refute Boris Johnson’s claim UK will still be able to access single market

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 28 June 2016 13:11 BST
'You cannot have your cake and eat it', say EU officials
'You cannot have your cake and eat it', say EU officials (iStock)

The UK cannot bypass the key liberties of the European Union, such as free movement of people, and retain its access to the single market, Germany’s foreign policy spokesman Jurgen Hardt has said.

Mr Hardt said: “The single market is the harmonised market with four liberties – you can move your money as you want, you can send goods where you want, you can do services where you want, and you have the free movement of employees and citizens.

“Taking [these aspects] out of the single market to keep Britain in is not a realistic option,” he told the BBC.

Mr Hardt’s comments follow similar statements from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the UK cannot “cherry pick” the terms of its departure from the EU.

Ms Merkel said for Britain to “keep the privileges” of access to the single market, it would have to accept basic EU values such as the free movement of people, just as Norway does.

Boris Johnson, who is among the favourites to run for Conservative Party leadership when David Cameron steps down, has said “there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market.”

But EU officials have made it clear that this will come at a price, and one which will be at odds with the very reason many Britons voted to leave the union.

Immigration has been a central issue for many who voted to leave the EU. Mr Johnson and UKIP leader Nigel Farage both campaigned for Leave saying they wanted to introduce an Australian-style points system for immigration.

“You cannot have your cake and eat it”, said an EU diplomat in response to Mr Johnson’s claims the UK could enjoy access to the single market without obeying EU rules, the Guardian reports.

Mr Johnson previously remarked that when it comes to cake, he is “pro having it and pro eating it”.

But the diplomat added: “It is a pipe dream. You cannot have full access to the single market and not accept its rules. If we gave that kind of deal to the UK, then why not Australia or New Zealand? It would be a free-for-all.”

For now, Ms Merkel says Britain’s exit from the EU will not begin until the UK officially triggers article 50.

David Cameron has refused to do so, leaving it for his successor to begin the formal Brexit process.

As Britain’s economy reels from the referendum result, triggering article 50 is becoming an increasingly unenviable task for the next prime minister, particularly for those candidates like Mr Johnson and Michael Gove, who campaigned on reducing immigration, and may yet be forced to accept major concessions to retain access to the single market.

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