Brexit: Theresa May’s plans make trade barriers ‘inevitable’, says EU's Donald Tusk

EU council president is meeting Theresa May later today

Jon Stone
Brussels
Thursday 01 March 2018 10:14
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Donald Tusk: Theresa May’s plans make trade barriers ‘inevitable’

Theresa May has made trade barriers with the EU “inevitable” by her choice of Brexit red lines, the president of the European Council has warned.

Speaking at an event of business leaders in Brussels Donald Tusk said that leaving the single market and customs union would “determine the shape of our future relationship”.

He made the comments hours ahead of a meeting with the Prime Minister in London later today where he said he hoped the Ms May would provide more detail on the UK’s position.

Mr Tusk also defended EU plans for a “common regulatory area” between Ireland and Northern Ireland, arguing that “no one has come up with anything wiser” – despite Ms May’s rejection of the policy and Brexiteer claims it amounted to the EU “annexing” the province.

“Recently, London has definitively confirmed its red lines including no customs union and no single market. We acknowledge these red lines without enthusiasm and without satisfaction,” Mr Tusk said.

“Everyone must be aware that the UK red lines will also determine the shape of our future relationship.

“Next week I will present the draft guidelines in this respect, here I want to stress one thing clearly: There can be no frictionless trade outside of the customs union and the single market. Friction is an inevitable side-effect of Brexit by nature.”

The PM has ruled out single market and customs union membership

The British government says it wants trade with the EU to be “as frictionless as possible” and to be “tariff free” after Brexit, but ministers are yet to publicly detail proposals that could achieve this outside the customs union and single market.

Mr Tusk last week dismissed the current UK policy on the issue as being based on “illusion”. Brexit Secretary David Davis has said he want the EU and UK and agree to mutually recognise each others’ regulators, alongside a so-called “three baskets” approach that would see the UK stay aligned with the single market in certain areas.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has repeatedly told the UK government it cannot “cherry pick” parts of the single market.

Labour says it would keep the UK in the customs union and seek a new relationship with the single market.

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