No ‘bespoke’ Brexit, transition means ‘status quo’: Barnier

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Britain must accept the full economic and legal status quo in a transition period after it leaves the EU and should expect no tailor-made terms on trade in its future relationship.

Suggesting a transition should run for 21 months from Brexit on March 30, 2019 until the current EU budget expires at the end of 2020, Barnier said Britain would “certainly” remain subject to EU laws and courts during that transition.

“During this period, the EU legal framework including on jurisdiction would continue to apply to Britain,” Barnier said in an interview published on Tuesday in Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper.

“We don’t have time to invent a new model. So for a short time after the formal exit from the EU the economic status quo would continue to apply, which besides the internal market also includes the customs union and collective political decisions.”

In a version of the interview in Belgium’s L‘Echo, he said of the transition: “The only difference is that the British would no longer take part in decisions on European legislation.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed a transition of around two years to give time to put a new free trade pact in place, although she faces opposition in London from some Brexit supporters who want a clean, quick break.

Barnier noted that May had rejected the option of staying in the EU single market long-term — the “Norwegian model” as he called it, referring to Norway’s membership of the EU internal market, accepting all its rules and costs without having a say.

“So we must work on other hypotheses,” Handelsblatt quoted him as saying. “Another option would be a free trade treaty using the example of the CETA agreement with Canada. It would take several years, however, to negotiate such an agreement.”

Asked if that meant there could be “a specifically British model” along the lines of the “bespoke arrangements” May has referred to without giving detail, Barnier replied simply: “No.”

Quoted by L‘Echo, he said a trade deal could be agreed in three years — meaning that if talks start in December it would be ready just in time for a transition ending in December 2020.

He said his staff were already working on drafting a withdrawal treaty that will include terms for transition.

Barnier said he still hoped that May could provide more detail on her offer to meet financial commitments on withdrawal so that EU leaders could agree in December to end their refusal to negotiate a future trade deal.

May told an EU summit last week that she could not agree a figure until she knows what trade terms the EU offers. Barnier said it was important to “de-dramatise” talks on the payment.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Robin Pomeroy)

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