European Union tells Britain to 'face up to hard facts' on Brexit

Posted March 15, 2018

Just days after snubbing Prime Minister Theresa May's calls for a special post-Brexit deal, the European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier today warned Britain against undercutting EU rules and said it would not retain its current privileges once it leaves the bloc.

Jean-Claude Juncker was cheered by Eurosceptic MEPs including members of Ukip when he noted in the European Parliament that Brexit was due on March 29, 2019.

Mr Juncker today said the draft proposals should not come as a surprise or shock, suggesting it "translates faithfully" the agreement reached between British and European officials late previous year to avoid a hard border.

"I recommend that we keep a close eye on the regulatory divergence, this dumping", he said, warning that it could become a key obstacle if Britain wants to get a smooth exit from the EU.

The suggestion that the Irish border is a European issue was heckled by one MEP, who shouted: "It is a British issue".

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The bloc has repeatedly dismissed such an idea as "cherry-picking" and European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier once again rejected on Tuesday.

It urged Theresa May and the remaining 27 European Union leaders to agree a "status quo" transition period after Brexit next year.

Britain intends to leave the EU's single market and customs union, which suggests the need for border controls somewhere.

"It sounds to me like they believe it was Russian Federation, and I would certainly take that finding as fact", he added.

Another German industry group, the VDMA engineering association, also called on Tuesday for an EU-UK customs deal.

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Any less comprehensive free-trade agreement in lieu of customs union membership would carry the risk of logistical bottlenecks and inevitably lead to an increase in the cost and bureaucratic burden associated with trade, he added.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said talks he held with May and her Brexit minister David Davis last week had left him confident London would "see the advantages of such an approach".

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who is still an MEP, said the United Kingdom could leave without a transition period and claimed a transatlantic trade deal could be struck "in 48 hours".

"As the clock counts down, with one year to go, it is now time to translate speeches into treaties, to turn commitments into agreements".

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