18:13 GMT06 March 2021
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    The Chequers deal is dead and Theresa May should adopt a Canada-style Brexit deal. This is what Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MPs on Tuesday. The EU official also said Britain’s offer on customs was illegal. Sputnik discussed this with Robert Ackrill, Professor of European Economics and Policy at Nottingham Trent University.

    Sputnik: What is your take on the statements made by the EU Brexit negotiator?

    Robert Ackrill: The response to the Chequers agreement that both the hardline Brexiteers and Michel Barnier have kind of united against the Chequers deal, I think it's very telling in terms of chances of that ever seeing the light of day.

    But for me I think, the thing to understand about this debate and this disagreement lies in a failure of UK politicians to understand what the European Union is, and it is fundamentally a set of fairly complex and technocratic agreements that bind the member states together.

    So when you have something which he clearly believes doesn't accord with those basic building blocks of the European Union, it seems to me that he can only say one thing: that — that is not acceptable, which I think is why he made the specific suggestion of something like a Canada type deal, simply because we know that this kind of an agreement can fit with the rules and regulations, and the technicalities of the European Union as a very complex structure.

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    Robert Ackrill: What is it about the Canadian-style deal that would be so beneficial or would fit this particular Brexit-negotiated leave from the European Union?

    Robert Ackrill: From the European side, I think it has the advantage that the UK isn't looking for elements of an agreement that are completely unprecedented or have no relationship to the EU's existing technical structures.

    I think from the UK point of view, given the UK's red lines around, for example, not wanting to be subject to the European Court of Justice, that kind of red line would be respected with a Canada-type agreement, but the problem is that such an agreement is inferior in trade terms to the Chequers agreement, and it doesn't resolve the perpetual problems that have been hanging over these talks for a very long time now, and that is the issue of the Irish border, and what happens on that border between Northern Ireland and (The Republic of) Ireland.

    Sputnik: We've got Prime Minister Theresa May saying that she's not going to now compromise on the Chequers deal, so that's one side of the fence, but we've also got what appears to be Europe saying they would prefer the Johnson stance on Brexit, where do we actually stand then, moving forward with the negotiations? What's going to happen next?

    Robert Ackrill: The pressure is going to be very much on Theresa May in this particular situation, because we know that a Canada-type agreement is acceptable to the European Union, it fits in with their rules and policies and ways of doing business.

    It gives the UK government the freedom it said it wants to negotiate other trade agreements, although, with a degree of restriction but nothing like as much as with the Chequers agreement, but for as long as that proposal contains key elements around trade that simply do not fit in with the European Union's way of operating, then I don't see any way in which that so-called Chequers agreement could fly in Brussels.

    Sputnik: There are reports that Germany has been urging its businesses to backup the Brexit plan amid the uncertainty surrounding the ordeal, what options does Berlin then have regarding the entire European Union for that matter?

    Robert Ackrill: One of the things that's very interesting is you see a number of other countries, unlike the UK, but especially countries like Germany and the Netherlands increasing spending on border officials, but I think one of the things that Germany is very worried about, one of the things Germany is always very worried about is its car industry.

    The EU's free trade agreements with other countries say, for example, with South Korea are subject to what we call rules of origin, that is to say, EU cars have a tariff reduction when they're sent to South Korea.

    When Michel Barnier was interviewed in one of the big German newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he said that companies need to be thinking about this because supply chains which include UK companies could fundamentally affect EU countries' trade with other countries because of this concern over supply chains and imports coming in from non-EU countries like the UK, so we really having to think again right into the nitty-gritty of the detail to prepare for what could be potentially a no deal Brexit.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.




    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    customs, trade, Chequers plan, Brexit, EU, Theresa May, United Kingdom
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