EU negotiators have reportedly voiced their concerns over the threat that the hard-won Brexit compromise, dubbed “facilitated customs arrangements,” may pose to the bloc’s single market.
According to The Guardian, citing a diplomatic source, Theresa May had lived “through political hell” to reach the deal with her fractious cabinet, but that did not mean that “the British compromise is more palatable to the European Union.”
“We will try to receive it as well as possible but from what we understand it is still a carve out of the single market,” the source said, adding that the prime minister’s plan for post-Brexit single market looked like “a lot of fudge with a cherry on top.”
While Theresa May managed to convince her ministers to accept UK-EU free trade area under a “common rulebook” that will see both parties play along the same standards on foods and goods, The Guardian’s source said that the deal might be “not good enough” for the bloc.
“We are very unsure this is going to fly. This position of the UK will demand so much political will on the EU side to make it happen… [May] will not be able to go much further than this and quite frankly it’s probably not good enough for the EU,” the source explained.
At the same time, another source said that EU negotiators would analyze Britain’s promise to abide by the bloc’s standards on environment, climate change, social and consumer protection and employment policies.
“The simple reassurance from the UK, ‘of course we are not going to lower our standards. Trust us,’ is not going to fly,” the source warned.
Another top diplomat said that the cabinet meeting on the Brexit deal at the prime minister’s countryside residence had resulted in a “mélange of earlier proposals that were not really feasible.”
“Everybody wants an agreement and the UK needs an agreement more urgently than us. So I think in the end it will come to something. If it is not in October, then maybe in November or December,” the source said.
Even though Theresa May earlier reaffirmed her commitment to prevent the establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit, EU diplomats were reportedly left unsure about what the plan meant for trade along the Irish border, which is a condition for Dublin’s approval of the final Brexit deal.
Reacting to the compromise plan, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the EU would closely examine the UK’s new approach:
Statement by British Govt on #Brexit last night needs and deserves detailed consideration. We look forward to publication of white paper next week so that the EU task force can examine new UK approach. Lots of work ahead.— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) 7 июля 2018 г.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted that he was looking forward to seeing the White Paper:
#Chequers discussion on future to be welcomed. I look forward to White Paper. We will assess proposals to see if they are workable & realistic in view of #EUCO guidelines. Next negotiations w/ #UK on WP, & Withdrawal Agreement, w/c 16 July #Brexit— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) 6 июля 2018 г.
The EU Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, also reacted to the announcement by the PM’s cabinet:
I read the #Chequers statement with great interest. But the devil is in the detail. The @Europarl_EN's Brexit Steering Group awaits the White Paper which it will examine very carefully at its meeting on 12/7 and then give its considered initial response.— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) 7 июля 2018 г.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but talks have been at an impasse on the terms of trade with the 27 members of the bloc, who will remain in the single market and customs union.
Since the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, Theresa May has faced much pressure from the EU senior officials, who repeatedly have sent the UK a clear message that it wouldn’t enjoy special favors and the negotiations wouldn’t be a “cherry-picking exercise.”