EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has insisted PM May’s cluster of Brexit proposals are not suitable, describing them as “unworkable”, specifying that there are “two major problems” with her suggestions.
Outlining the problem areas in a meeting on Monday with MPs from the Commons Brexit Committee, Barnier said, “Our customs union, our customs system, as it works, is a fully integrated system that cannot be undermined and we cannot split up the four freedoms of the single market.”
He went on to say that Brussels is open to exploring an “agreement of some sort that simplifies customs arrangements between the United Kingdom and the EU”, adding that changes to customs controls would be needed for such an arrangement to work for them.
Commenting on the government’s recently published white paper, Barnier said it has “lots of positive things”, but key incompatibilities mean that the “proposal does not seem workable to us, basically.”
Although the meeting took place earlier this week, on September 3, the corresponding transcript wasn’t released until today.
Brits, including many Brexiteers, have been alarmed by the growing prospect of a hard Brexit, as such a trading arrangement would amplify the adverse economic effects of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, potentially leading to very high levels of inflation and even shortages of certain goods.
Some politicians have urged the UK government to extent negotiations if a deal isn’t secured, to avert a no-deal Brexit, but senior cabinet ministers have insisted Britain will leave the EU in March even if a deal isn’t agreed.