EU draws its own redlines in response to UK’s latest Brexit proposals.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has effectively rejected the recent UK Cabinet’s white paper proposals for a free-trade area for goods and a new customs agreement. At a news conference following his briefing of the EU 27 ministers on the status of Brexit talks, Barnier asked a series of critical questions which clearly show that the EU’s negotiating position is irreconcilable with the UK’s current proposals.
Barnier said “As you know this white paper is the result of a very intense internal debate in the United Kingdom, a debate that was necessary, and I think we have all seen that this debate in the U.K. is not over yet.”
Barnier asked “Are these proposals compatible with the principles laid out at the March European Council?”
“The U.K. said it was ready to align with Union standards for goods but only for those controlled at the borders — so it would not be aligned with our agrifood standards likes GMOs, pesticides, since there is no control over whether or not these rules are respected,” Barnier said.
“How are we going to protect European consumers?” Barnier asked.
“Are the proposals of the white paper workable? Or are they applicable without additional complexity or additional bureaucracy? These proposals would consist in applying two tariffs – Union and U.K. This stirs up practical questions: how can customs verify the final destination of goods? Isn’t there a risk of fraud? Brexit can’t be a justification for additional bureaucracy.”
“On customs, there are things I don’t understand, and neither does the Commission. It needs to be workable”.
“Are the British proposals in the interests of the EU?”
Barnier however noted that there were “several elements’ in the white paper that “opened the way to a constructive discussion,” including a free trade proposal that “should be at the heart of our economic relations.”
Commenting on Barnier’s speech, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the backbench Brexiteer European Research Group, said: “It is a typically, bullying response by Mr. Barnier which confirms people’s view that the EU is not an benign organization and therefore, it is essential to leave.”
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