UK Brexit plan: it is time to face up to hard facts
The EU Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, has just given a speech at the EU parliament with a sobering message for Theresa May.
As we and many others have consistently pointed out, many of the negotiating goals of the UK Government are not achievable. Unless the UK ditches some of its red lines, decides on a workable future relationship and comes up with a way to prevent a border in Ireland, the talks are bound to fail.
Here are the key points Barnier made. I apologise for the imperfect translation from the original French. Pretty much all of the speech highlights the key areas in which two sets of red lines are about to clash.
It is time to face up to hard facts.
With regard to the first pillar, economic cooperation, as we speak, all models of cooperation with third countries are still on the table.
They are available. We are open for business. It’s the UK that is closing doors. I listened attentively to Theresa May’s Mansion House speech, which confirms the doors that the UK is closing by confirming red lines. Exit the domestic market, leave the customs union. To regain a regulatory and commercial autonomy, this was told to us earlier by many of you. Never be bound by the Court of Justice.
We take note of it. But then we have to state the obvious. One cannot want both the status of a third country and at the same time ask for benefits belonging to the Union and only to the Union. We cannot, we will not be able to use the internal market à la carte – The four freedoms, including freedom of movement, are indivisible and inseparable.
We cannot allow participation in our agencies without the legal commitment to adopt and apply EU law and the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice.
We cannot solicit from outside of the mutual recognition of rules and standards, whereas this can only be based on trust, ie a common law, a coherent supervision and a single jurisdiction. And, ladies and gentlemen, Mr President, it is a rather surprising idea indeed to believe that the 27 EU Member States and your Parliament could somehow accept convergence when the United Kingdom so wishes. and at the same time give it the opportunity to diverge when it comes to creating a comparative advantage.
To coin a sentence, it is time to face up to hard facts.
Mr. Ferreira earlier, Mr. Lange, Ms. Scott Cato, in particular, have raised the issue of standards in the United Kingdom. It will be a third and sovereign country. This is a very important point and it is a question that I asked a few weeks ago and for which we do not yet have an answer from the United Kingdom. The UK chooses to leave the Union, chooses to leave the single market and the customs union. We take note of it. Does the UK also want to leave or move away from our regulatory model? The very one we patiently built together for 44 years. A regulatory model that is not just about standards or laws. Behind which there are in fact societal choices that we have made together. The social market economy, social protection, security, food standards and financial regulation.
And this question is very important. Does the United Kingdom also want to move away from this model that we have created with it and engage in the path of regulatory competition, even working against us?
This question is not only important, for the economy itself, for citizens, for consumers. It is also very important for the political conditions of the ratification of any future agreement between us and the United Kingdom because, it will be for the European Parliament to decide, for the Council too, but also unanimously by the 27 national parliaments and perhaps even by some regional parliaments.
And this question on divergence, or even the risk of the UK dropping standards, is very important right now to the conditions of this ratification.
Finally, this is my last point, there is the question of Ireland.
Ms. McGuinness spoke on this point with great force. Everyone knows that the EU has played its role, has held its place for dialogue and peace in Ireland, to bring closer and give a common horizon. The conditions of stability and dialogue between previously divided communities. The EU is not responsible for the consequences of Brexit. But she is accountable for this cooperation, this stability and this common future. That is why, as many have wished, a strong and lasting agreement on Brexit an orderly withdrawal must include a solid and lasting solution for Ireland and for Europe. This is the meaning of the protocol we proposed in this draft withdrawal agreement.
This option is part of the joint commitments between us and the United Kingdom at the highest level.
That of Theresa May, President Juncker and Donald Tusk. And this document only implements one of the options of the December Joint Report. I already told you, Ms. Dodds, when we saw each other in my office a few days ago. I also told Mr. Nicholson that I always listen carefully. It is no more and no less than the options we decided to study to provide concrete solutions. It is our responsibility to operationalize how we will avoid a hard border on the Isle of Ireland in the absence of other solutions and taking into account the UK’s decision to leave the market and leave the customs union.
And I will not cease to repeat, we are ready to replace this ‘backstop’ solution with any other better solution proposed by the British government.
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