Barnier Claims UK and EU Have ‘Huge Common Responsibility’ to Stop Full Brexit
Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has claimed that it is the UK’s and the EU’s “common responsibility” to agree on a deal and stop a clean-break, no-deal Brexit.
Just last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had declared that negotiations with the EU had failed over the bloc’s intransigence on issues like anti-competition rules and fishing, and that the UK should prepare for a no deal.
However, Mr Johnson did not officially withdraw from trade talks, instead his proxies stating in the following days that negotiations could restart if Europe were willing to compromise. EU insiders interpreted the prime minister’s threat of no deal as mere bluster, with one saying that “if the UK would really not care about having a new deal, it would have left the table long ago”.
Talks recommenced in London on Thursday, with Mr Barnier telling Reuters: “I think it’s very important to be back at the table.”
“I think we have a huge common responsibility,” Mr Barnier said, implying that there would be grave consequences for both parties if the UK left the EU without a deal.
The UK officially left the European Union on January 31st, 2020, but remains in a transition period tied to the EU’s rules until December 31st, 2020. If a free trade agreement is not made, the UK will leave the bloc’s institutions and trade with the EU-27 on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
The UK is already working on multiple trade deals with the United States, Australia, and others, signing an FTA with Japan on Friday, a trade continuation agreement with Norway this week, and earlier this month signing a partnership agreement including free trade with the Ukraine.
Mr Barnier’s remarks echo the Remain campaign’s Project Fear before the 2016 vote on European Union membership, with disproven claims that voting to leave the bloc would result in immediate job losses, recession, and lead to a “punishment” budget. Likewise, an ominous threat hangs in the balance if the UK and the EU decide to part ways without a deal.
Brexiteers like Nigel Farage have warned, however, that signing a trade deal with the bloc based on the Withdrawal Agreement would come back to “haunt” the UK, as it could continue to tie the UK into the EU’s rules.
A Downing Street spokesman said on Thursday that there were still “significant gaps” between the two parties on fishing and the so-called “level playing field”, and that it was “entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed”. Talks will continue next week.
However, Mr Farage is also more confident than not that a deal will be agreed, predicting that France will agree to “give a little on fishing”, but the UK forced will be to “promise to keep broadly but not directly aligned to EU state aid rules”. Farage said that such a deal “will not fully satisfy many Brexiteers”.