“The British have not understood, or they do not want to understand, that Brexit has consequences for them,” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in a punchy reaction to recent public statements by his British counterpart David Frost.
Speaking to German radio Deutschlandfunk Friday morning, Barnier demanded “more realism in London in the near future if they want an orderly agreement to withdraw from the single market and the customs union.”
U.K. chief negotiator David Frost told MPs on the House of Commons’ Brexit committee Wednesday that Brussels’ negotiating mandate would “need to evolve” in order for an agreement to be reached, or else the U.K. would walk away from negotiations.
Barnier said Friday that such changes are “out of question.”
“I would remind you that the United Kingdom is leaving the internal market and the customs union … it’s not us leaving the United Kingdom,” he said. “A third country, the United Kingdom, will not dictate the conditions of access to our market for British goods, services, data or for workers and businesses … We remain sovereign. This is my mandate.”
Speaking about the contentious issue of a so-called level playing field for common environmental, labor or competition rules — paramount for the EU and anathema to the U.K. — Barnier said: “What astonishes me a lot about the British position is that Prime Minister Johnson himself acknowledged [the need for rules of fair competition] in the Political Declaration [on the future relationship] he signed. We negotiated this with him and with David Frost in October, step by step, line by line and comma by comma.”
He added that reaching a deal before the end of the year will be “very difficult, but it is possible.” But he warned: “We wish to conclude a partnership and balanced agreement with this great, friendly, neighboring and allied country … But that will never be at the expense of the single market, European consumers and European business, as the British are trying to achieve.”