Brexit: Michel Barnier 'strongly opposes' May's Chequers proposals, warning offer would be end of EU

Europe's chief negotiator says allowing Britain to 'cherry pick' regulations would have 'serious consequences'

Tom Embury-Dennis
Monday 03 September 2018 13:29 BST
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Michel Barnier has warned he is “strongly opposed” to the prime minister’s Chequers proposal on future trade with the EU after Brexit, warning the “illegal” offer would “end” the European project.

In what were some of his harshest words yet for the British government’s plans, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said allowing Britain to “cherry pick” regulations would have “serious consequences”, adding it would be “much easier” if the UK stayed in the single market.

Mr Barnier’s comments came in an interview with newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in which he told European carmakers they would need to shun British manufacturers in order to enjoy low tariffs on their global exports.

“The British have a choice,” he said. “They could stay in the single market, like Norway, which is also not a member of the EU, but they would then have to accept all the regulations and make contributions to European solidarity.

“But if we let the British cherry pick which of our regulations to follow, that would have serious consequences: all sorts of other third countries could insist that we offer them the same deal.

“That would be the end of the single market and the European project. I am often accused of being dogmatic in the UK, but the truth is I'm only protecting our fundamental interests.”

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Mr Barnier’s comments came after Theresa May insisted she would not be pushed around by Brussels in an op-ed for The Sunday Telegraph.

“I will not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest,” she wrote. “Neither will I give in to those who want to reopen the whole question with a second referendum... To ask the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our democracy – and a betrayal of that trust.”

But ex-Brexit secretary David Davis said on Sunday the proposals put forward by Ms May would be “worse than staying in” the EU, and confirmed he would vote against any deal based on the Chequers compromise.

His admission makes it more likely the prime minister will be unable to get any deal based on her plans through the House of Commons, where she has a wafer-thin majority and a number of her own MPs already openly opposing her proposals.

In comments likely to concern Britons employed by the car industry, Mr Barnier warned EU manufacturers that the frictionless imports and exports between the UK and the continent would come to an end after Brexit.

“Outside of the internal market and the customs union, this involves customs formalities and controls that hinder ‘just in time’ production,” Mr Barnier said.

“In order for EU carmakers to benefit from the tariff benefits of the EU-Korea agreement, only a certain proportion of the services may be provided in a car in a third country. Businesses have to be careful not to use too many parts of Britain in their vehicles in the future.”

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