Michel Barnier, speaking at the Brussels office of the Centre for European Reform, spoke on the EU “standing up for itself”. He said Brexit could be a turning point in what he called the European project. He noted the UK’s voiced strong support for the Single Market in 2012 and said that the stronger EU will want a close relationship with the UK and that therefore a “no deal” was not the scenario it is working to. He noted three keys to the future relationship between the EU27 and the UK:
- agreeing the terms of an orderly withdrawal, including how to avoid a hard border in Ireland – but he said the UK has not been clear on what it will commit to in order to allow this;
- the integrity of the single market. He said it was not helpful to talk either of “setting the UK free” nor of some ability to participate in parts of the single market. He said the UK cannot cherry pick parts of the single market in which to remain, and that financial services cannot have its own bubble in which it remains in the single market while the UK ends other freedoms. He said the way forward it in equivalence decisions, together with continued work towards global regulatory convergence; and
- ensuring a level playing field. He said a key is whether the UK wants to stay close to eh EU model or move away from it. He said the EU is willing offer its “most ambitious” free trade approach, but it will not wait for the UK.