The European Union’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has delivered a huge blow to the Prime Minister’s new Brexit proposal. Speaking in the European Parliament chamber on Wednesday, Mr Barnier explained why, as it stands, the EU “cannot accept” the proposals. Mr Barnier outlined the “three serious concerns” for the European Union with the proposals that the British Prime Minister outlined towards the end of last week, which included checks on goods, legally operable solutions, and consent in Stormont.
Three concerns Mr Barnier outlined on why the EU cannot accept Mr Johnson’s new Brexit plan:
1) Checks on goods on the island of Ireland. Mr Barnier said the UK is asking the European Union to accept controls will be spread out, based on exemptions and technology not yet developed – but without the guarantees outlined in the backstop.
He said: “What we’re being asked for in reality is to accept a system that hasn’t been properly developed, that hasn’t been tested. There will be controls spread out across Ireland and it will largely be based on exemptions and derogations on technology that is yet to be developed.”
2) EU need legally operable solutions. Under the backstop, solutions are legally operable until there is another solution. Mr Barnier said by taking away the ‘safety net’ there is not the same sense of security. Mr Barnier questioned what happens if a Joint Committee cannot find a solution.
He said: “By taking away that safety net, the backstop, and looking for alternative solutions later in the transition period, that British proposal does not give us that same security that we have in the backstop.”
3) Consent in Stormont. The UK proposals give Northern Ireland authorities a unilateral option not to activate the solution the day after ratification and every four years call it into question.
He said: “Unfortunately, the British proposals as it stands simply has the implementation of the protocol based on a unilateral decision on the Northern Irish authorities who could decide right from the very start – the day after the ratification – simply not to activate the proposed solution for Northern Ireland. Even if it were to be implemented, every four years they could call this into question.”
Michel Barnier ruled out Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans
Michel Barnier outlined the ‘three serious concerns’ for the European Union
Mr Barnier also insisted the British proposals do not give the European Union the same “safety net” as the controversial ‘backstop’ mechanism.
He told the European Parliament: “Ladies and gentlemen, Members of Parliament, the proposal of the British Government as things stand is not something we can accept.
“It replaces as operational, practical, legal solution, by one that is simply a temporary solution.
“There are other issues which are of concern. Not with the withdrawal agreement, but with the political declaration which goes alongside and is very important because it describes the steps that will follow after Brexit, we hope with a deal, but even without a deal, we will have to rebuild everything that has been pulled apart.”
But, Mr Barnier said he would be available 24/7 in the coming days to try to secure an agreement with the European Union.
Boris Johnson outlined his plan to the EU last week
The proposal of the British Government as things stand is not something we can accept.
Mr Barnier also reiterated the “problems” Brexit is causing, particularly in Ireland.
He said: “Brexit is creating specific, serious problems, especially in Ireland. What we need is operational, legally binding solutions…so we will remain calm, vigilant and constructive. We will be respectful of the UK and those who lead it.”
Responding to the remarks from the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe wrote: “Barnier – ‘Brexit is causing problems’
“Damn right! UK leaving is equivalent of the smallest 19 countries leaving. It will cause problems for the EU.
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Jean-Claude Juncker said he would not accept a ‘blame game’
“They’re terrified of a prosperous post-Brexit UK. For them, that is the real problem that needs to be thwarted.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the Parliament’s plenary session he would not accept a “blame game”.
He said: “I don’t accept this blame game that started in London. Personally, I don’t exclude a deal.
“The risk of a no-deal remains real and basically is going to come down to a decision by the UK government, but will never be the choice – the preferred option – of the European Union.
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“That’s why I think it is better now to focus on what we can do in terms of concluding that deal, something which is desirable and still, in my view, possible.”
It comes following a turbulent week for the Prime Minister, and on Tuesday, Brexit negotiations appeared to be on the brink of collapse on following a phone conversation between the Prime Minister and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Following the conservation, Downing Street sources said the German Chancellor had made clear a deal was now “overwhelmingly unlikely”.
Angela Merkel spoke with Boris Johnson on Tuesday morning
The claims provoked a furious response from outgoing European Council president Donald Tusk who accused the Prime Minister of jeopardising the future security of the EU and the UK.
Mr Tusk wrote: “Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?”
Speaking in the chamber on Wednesday, European Parliament president David Sassoli said “not much progress” appears to have been made in exit talks.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson has said he is still “cautiously optimistic” about securing an agreement.