3 September 2018

Barnier says he is “strongly opposed” to UK Chequers proposal

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he is “strongly opposed” to the UK government’s proposal for a future UK-EU relationship. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Barnier said, “If we let the British cherrypick which of our regulations to follow, that would have serious consequences…That would be the end of the single market and the European project.” He also warned that EU car manufacturers would have to use fewer British components in the future to continue benefiting from tariff-free benefits in other trade agreements. And he described the government’s Facilitated Customs Arrangement as “not practical,” arguing, “That would only be possible with insane and unjustifiable bureaucracy. Therefore, the British proposal would be an invitation to fraud if implemented.”

Separately, The Sunday Times reports that the EU is demanding that the UK select an “off-the-shelf” model relationship with the EU. One source told the paper, “Barnier basically told [Brexit Secretary Dominic] Raab he can have Canada, Norway, Switzerland or Ukraine…The UK has to choose. The EU will dress it up…and make hugely positive noises about the future relationship, but the Chequers plan is not going to fly.”

Elsewhere, speaking after last week’s negotiating round, Barnier said, “[The Irish] backstop is critical to conclude the negotiations, because as I’ve already said, without a backstop, there is no agreement.” He noted that in order to achieve a legally operational solution, he had asked the UK to present “the data necessary for the technical work which we need to do now on the nature, location and modality of the controls that will be necessary.”

Source: European Commission The Sunday Telegraph The Sunday Times The Guardian Press Association

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Theresa May: I will not accept compromises on Chequers that are not in the national interest

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Prime Minister Theresa May warns, “I will not be pushed into accepting compromises on the [UK government’s] Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest.” She noted that despite the fact the government is “confident” of reaching a deal with the EU, “We will be ready for a no deal if we need to be.” May also ruled out a second Brexit referendum, arguing, “To ask the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our democracy – and a betrayal of that trust.”

This comes as The Times reports that Cabinet ministers are reassuring some former Remain-supporting Conservative MPs that the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposals could evolve. One MP has said, “[Chief Whip] Julian Smith has been telling people that Chequers is a step in the right direction and there could be more and even hinting there may be a time where they need to see off the “true opponents” of Chequers.”

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Chequers proposals "throw away most of the advantages of Brexit," writes Boris Johnson

In a piece for The Daily Telegraph, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson today warns that the government’s Chequers proposal would “throw away most of the advantages of Brexit,” adding, “We are making it impossible for the UK to be more competitive, to innovate, to deviate, to initiate, and we are ruling out major free trade deals.” Johnson calls upon Prime Minister Theresa May to “change course” and “rediscover the elan and dynamism of [the] Lancaster House [speech].” He also writes that “some in the UK Government never wanted solutions” to the issue of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, adding that “They wanted to use that problem to stop a proper Brexit” and arguing that the Irish border issue “is fixable. The scandal is not that we have failed, but that we have not even tried.”

Meanwhile, former Brexit Secretary David Davis yesterday said he would not support the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan when it comes to parliament’s vote on the Brexit deal. He said, “In my view, the Chequers proposal…is actually almost worse than being in [the EU],” arguing that it would allow the EU to “dictate our future rules” on manufactured goods and agrifoods. He also insisted the government had “overemphasized the problem on the Northern Ireland border.” However, Davis said May could remain as Prime Minister even if parliament failed to back the Chequers plan.

Separately, The Times reports 20 Conservative MPs, including former minister Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith, have joined a grassroots campaign to deliver an alternative proposal to the Chequers plan, based on a Canada-style arrangement. Elsewhere, Sir Lynton Crosby, the election strategist that managed the Conservative party’s last general election campaign, is also reportedly putting together a campaign against Chequers. Equally, Conservative MP Nick Boles, who previously supported the government plan, has published a plan for the UK temporarily to secure a Norway-style relationship with the EU, before seeking a looser trade agreement in the future. He said, “It has become clear that the EU is not going to accept the terms of the Chequers Agreement.”

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No deal contingency plans could be triggered if there is no Brexit deal by mid-November, warns German business organisation

The Financial Times reports that German business leaders are concerned about progress in Brexit negotiations. The director general of Germany’s BDI business federation, Joachim Lang, told the FT, “If there is no agreement by mid-November, German companies will start implementing their emergency plans for a no-deal Brexit…In a no-deal scenario, and without a transition phase, we would end up with a border and customs regime that no one is prepared for.” Of the government’s Chequers proposal, He said, “The UK says it wants to keep the free movement for goods but become independent with regard to the other freedoms. We believe that cannot work.”

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Pieter Cleppe: How are the EU27 preparing for a no deal Brexit?

In a new blog, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe analyses how EU institutions, member states and private firms have begun preparations for a potential no deal Brexit. He writes, “Some EU member states have already spent a lot of capital and energy on planning for ‘No Deal’, others not that much. Even the governments that have taken a lot of measures to prepare for Brexit, such as the Dutch, Belgian and French governments, have been suffering domestic criticism from business groups for not doing enough.”