Brexit: Michel Barnier's top advisor pours cold water on Theresa May's latest trade plan

PM thought 'mutual recognition' of standards should be enough

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
@joncstone
Tuesday 06 March 2018 09:46
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Theresa May sets out trade plans for new relationship with the EU post-Brexit

The EU’s chief negotiator’s office has poured cold water on Theresa May’s latest plan for a Brexit trade deal, warning that her suggestion of mutual recognition of standards is not enough to secure access to the single market.

Stefaan de Rynck, the main advisor to chief negotiator Michel Barnier, said the EU’s current approach to trade necessitated a “single EU rule book” – which would appear at odds with the PM’s latest idea.

In her Mansion House speech last week, Ms May suggested that the EU and UK could negotiate a trade deal where they mutually recognised each others’ rules and standards as obtaining the same “regulatory outcomes”, with a third-party independent court overseeing disputes.

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But Mr De Rynck said in a lecture at LSE on Monday: “The EU has moved away in the wake of the financial crisis from mutual recognition of national standards to a centralised approach with a single EU rule book and common enforcement structures and single supervisory structures.

“If you are in a very integrated market but you don’t have the joint enforcement structures then you can see the potential for all kinds of difficulties.”

The EU’s chief advisor said the ECJ would be able to declare the mutual recognition of standards invalid if it undermined single market integrity, and that this was fundamental to the idea of what the single market was.

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His comments are the most detailed response from the European Commission to the PM’s latest speech yet. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier gave a fairly muted reaction last week, saying he welcomed the address and that it would be taken into account when drawing up the EU’s draft trade guidelines, which are expected to be released on Wednesday.

Others in Brussels, however, gave a more frosty suggestion, with European Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt saying the PM needed to move beyond “vague aspirations”.

Mr De Rynck also warned the UK against trying to break EU unity, suggesting that businesses he had encountered “are more concerned with maintaining the integrity of the EU single market than any loss of access to British markets” and would be unlikely to press the EU to compromise.

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