Barnier: UK must know Brexit impact
The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier says Britons have to be educated about the consequences of leaving the single market.
Barnier told an Italian economic conference that he was not trying to punish Britain but his remarks follow criticism at the end of last week’s talks that London’s team was nostalgic with an unrealistic approach to negotiations.
“I have a state of mind: not aggressive … but I’m not naive,” Barnier said.
“There are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn’t been explained to the British people. We intend to teach people … what leaving the single market means.”
Despite speculation that the UK would be prepared to settle on a €50-million divorce bill to pay for its EU commitments, London’s Brexit “bulldog” David Davis rejected such a figure.
Davis said Barnier looked a “bit silly” in his criticism because the talks had achieved some results, including on health insurance for citizens.
“The [European] Commission puts itself in a silly position when it says nothing has been done when really important things have,” the UK’s lead negotiator said.
“We put people before process. They are in danger of putting process first.”
He conceded that Britain was not legally obligated to pay for EU projects but political pressure might result in some form of financial settlement.
Davis claimed the EU was concentrating on the divorce bill because “money is incredibly important, it is the thing that frightens them the most”.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the European Union Withdrawal Bill faces the threat of obstruction and amendments by Labour and some Tory MPs.
The powers of the bill would be extensive. The so-called “Henry VIII powers” would allow ministers to change primary legislation using secondary legislation without parliamentary scrutiny.
Some Conservative MPs reacted angrily to demands from Downing Street that they should not propose amendments to the repeal bill when it reaches the committee stage next month. Should any pro-remain Conservatives table amendments that call for the option for the UK to remain in the single market or customs union, they are likely to attract cross-party support from Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.
Davis has insisted the powers would only be used for technical purposes.
He urged MPs to pass the bill without objection. “Everything in terms of significant change will be done in separate primary legislation, from immigration bills to customs bills. Anybody, remainer or leaver, should support this bill,” Davis said.
House of Commons foyer. Picture credit: Wikimedia