Michel Barnier: Brexit transition must end in December 2020

Sky NewsMichel Barnier speaking in Brussels on Wednesday.
  • The EU’s chief negotiator said that Britain will leave the EU for good after December 31 2020.
  • That would mean the transition, due to begin on 1 April 2019, will last no longer than 21 months.
  • Theresa May had asked for a transition deal lasting “around” two years.
  • Britain must continue to comply with all EU rules and laws during the transition, Barnier said.

LONDON – Michel Barnier has said that the European Union will not let a Brexit transition deal run beyond December 31, 2020.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said in a press conference on Wednesday morning that Brussels does not want any transition deal to stretch beyond 2020, in order to fit the EU’s financial calendar.

In practice, this means that Britain would be fully out of the EU on the first day of January 2021.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants a transition deal to last “around” two years from the formal exit date at the end of March 2019 to guarantee a smooth exit from the EU.

Barnier announced the decision from a European Commission building in Brussels, and spoke French.

According to a live translation by Sky News, he said the transition period “should be of a short and specific duration.”

He said: “At Florence, Theresa May referred to a maximum of two years. Our position, the European Commission’s position, is that this would run logically to December 31, 2020, because that’s the duration of the current multi-annual financial framework.”

Barnier reiterated that Britain will be expected to continue adhering to all EU laws, rules, and regulations – including the freedom of movement, the rules of the single market, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

“During the transition period, the UK will keep all benefits but also all the duties of the single market, customs union, and common policies,” Barnier said.

He set out five commitments to which Britain is expected to agree. The paraphrased commitments are:

  • Britain must respect the integrity of the single market. Transition will cover all economic sectors of the single market and include the four freedoms.
  • Britain will continue to comply fully with the customs union.
  • All new rules adopted by EU during transition will apply to the UK and subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
  • All EU policies will continue to apply to the UK.
  • EU’s autonomy of decision-making will still apply.

These conditions mean that Britain will effectively remain a member of the European Union in everything but name for nearly two years after March 2019.

Both EU and UK negotiators agree that this sort of transition, often referred to as “status quo” or “standstill” transition, is best for businesses across the continent as they won’t be forced to adapt to any major changes.

During this period, however, the UK will lose its representation in the European Parliament and will have no say in shaping EU laws and regulations.

Professor Anand Menon, director of the think tank UK In A Changing EU, told the British parliament’s Brexit committee earlier Wednesday that such a transition will leave Britain with “all the obligations but none of the rights” of EU membership.

Barnier dashes May’s hopes of a special free trade deal

Barnier added that Prime Minister May’s policy of taking Britain out of both the single market and customs unions means a future EU-UK trade deal cannot be as close as those the bloc has with other European countries.

He said that he expects the free trade deal negotiated with Britain to be “along the same lines” of the deals reached with South Korea, Japan and Canada.

Barnier slide trade dealsEuropean CommissionA graphic published by the European Commission showing the likely shape of a UK-EU relationship after Brexit, given the British government’s demands.

The EU’s deal with Canada, known as CETA, took seven years to finalise but crucially does not cover services. The services sector accounts for around 80% of Britain’s economy.

“There are of course differences between these different models, because each of these trade models is of course tailor-made and specific to these countries when we sign these agreements,” Barnier said.

“But it’s the same approach and logic underpinning these agreements. That will be the situation with the United Kingdom in light of what they said their position is themselves.”

Barnier has warned Britain that there is “no way” the EU will allow “cherry picking” in negotiations on a future trade deal.

“We won’t mix up the various scenarios to create a specific one and accommodate their wishes, mixing, for instance, the advantages of the Norwegian model, member of the single market, with the simple requirements of the Canadian one,” Barnier told Prospect magazine.

“No way. They have to face the consequences of their own decision.”

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