EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that the UK may face a no-deal Brexit if British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fails to deliver on London’s commitments pertaining to the political declaration that London signed with the European Commission.
In an interview with The Times on Saturday, Barnier cautioned that there would not be an agreement “at any cost” and that “the UK has been taking a step back — two steps back, three steps back — from the original commitments”.
He urged the UK's negotiators “to be fully in line with what the prime minister signed up to with us because 27 heads of state and government and the European parliament do not have a short memory”.
“We remember very clearly the text which we negotiated with Boris Johnson. And we just want to see that complied with. To the letter. And if that doesn’t happen there will be no agreement”, Barnier pointed out.
The EU chief negotiator warned of “even more” repercussions if the sides don’t get an agreement and that “those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis”.
“So I think we have a joint responsibility in this very serious crisis, which affects so many families […] to do everything we can to reach an agreement and I very much hope that we will do so”, Barnier stated.
He confirmed the EU’s unwillingness to conclude a deal that would damage the bloc or would harm “the integrity of the single market”.
“We are less exposed because 7 percent of our exports go to the UK, whereas for the UK it’s 47 percent of their exports which come to the EU. So I think that it is in the interests of both sides to find an agreement”, Barnier stressed.
The remarks came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in a key speech in early February that London will not "undermine EU standards" and will not engage commercial, social, or environmental dumping when negotiating a new post-Brexit trade deal.
The prime minister added that London is not planning on following EU regulations under a future free trade agreement, but promised to still uphold "the highest standards" in terms of competition policy, subsidies, social protection, and the environment. Johnson suggested coming up with a "smooth and unintrusive" method of resolving trade differences outside of the European Court of Justice.
London, Brussels at Odds Over Post-Brexit Trade Talks
Right now, the two sides remain at loggerheads over the post-Brexit trade talks as Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost are blaming each other for a possible stalemate. Barnier insists that a "new dynamism" is needed in the next round of the talks slated for 1 June in order to avoid gridlock. Frost, in turn, argues that the EU's proposed deal "contains novel and unbalanced proposals which would bind this country to EU law or standards".
"What is on offer is not a fair free trade relationship between close economic partners, but a relatively low-quality trade agreement coming with unprecedented EU oversight of our laws and institutions", the UK chief negotiator asserted.
In a separate development last week, Frost underscored that London refuses to treat its fisheries as a bargaining chip in its Brexit talks with the EU, and that any agreement has to accommodate the reality that the UK will maintain control of its own waters. According to him, EU access to British waters will contradict the idea of Brexit.
The UK officially left the European Union on 31 January, after years of negotiating for a deal with Brussels that would get the approval of the British Parliament. Brexit was postponed on several occasions, with Johnson initially planning it for 31 October 2019. The UK is set to go through a transition period to negotiate new trade deals with other countries, as well as the EU, now being outside the European Customs Union.