- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
- EU rejects UK government’s plan to keep Britain in the European single market for goods.
- The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator warned against the UK seeing the single market as a “big supermarket” which can be cherry-picked.
- He said the EU’s plan to keep Northern Ireland in the single market for goods could not apply to the rest of the UK.
LONDON – The EU has rejected Theresa May’s plan to keep Britain in the European single market for goods, warning that EU membership is not a “big supermarket” from which the UK can cherry-pick the best bits as it departs.
Speaking in Dublin, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned against any attempts by the UK to pick apart the single market, and said its benefits were only possible because of a “common ecosystem of rules”.
“As each member state knows well, enjoying the benefits of the single market is only possible with a common ecosystem of rules […] and the jurisdiction of a common court,” he told an audience at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin.
“In this period where the EU has faced so many challenges, it becomes even more important to consolidate and strengthen the single market. Our single market is the foundation of our unity,” he later added.
Barnier also emphasised that the EU’s “backstop” proposal to keep Northern Ireland within the single market for goods could not be rolled out to the rest of the UK, which is the arrangement Theresa May will reportedly seek.
“The [backstop] solution we have proposed is specific to unique circumstances of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he said.
“We have made an exception to our rules […] to address very specific challenges to Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he said.
Barnier’s comments come as Theresa May assembles her Cabinet for crunch talks which could define the shape of Brexit. She will reportedly try and persuade ministers to back her vision for a soft-ish version of Brexit, but faces the threat of resignations from hardline Brexiteers.
The talks are expected to continue until at lease 22.30 (GMT) after which a statement will be released to the media.
Asked this morning whether the prime minister was expecting any resignations, her official spokeswoman replied “let’s just see what happens.”