LONDON — Michel Barnier told British MPs that Theresa May’s Chequers proposal is “dead,” according to a member of the House of Commons Brexit committee.
MPs from the cross-party committee met the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels Monday.
Questioning Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab at a separate committee hearing in Westminster Wednesday, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who was present at the Barnier meeting, reported that the chief negotiator had said in French “les propositions sonts mortes” [the proposals are dead]. A spokesperson for the European Commission did not immediately respond to a request to confirm whether Barnier used those words.
Raab, appearing before the House of Commons European scrutiny committee, said he had regular meetings with Barnier and would not take Kinnock’s word for what happened.
A spokesperson for the committee said it would be releasing a transcript of the meeting shortly.
The Brexit secretary, despite having advocated for the U.K. to leave the EU, faced gruelling questioning from Brexiteers on the committee, who strongly oppose the Chequers proposals, which they believe will bind the U.K. too closely to EU rules.
Former Brexit minister David Jones asked Raab why, given the opposition of both Barnier and a large number of Conservative MPs, he was still “flogging a dead horse.”
Raab insisted that the EU had reacted positively to large parts of the Chequers proposals and attributed some of the concerns in Brussels to “a slight nervousness that the U.K. might rather do well and establish a competitive advantage on leaving the EU.”
“That ought to give people in this chamber and in the wider public a sense of confidence but of course it’s something the EU needs to be very mindful of,” he said.
Asked about preparations for a no-deal Brexit and whether the U.K. was in talks with the EU about side agreements to mitigate the most disruptive impacts, Raab said that these kinds of preparations could take one of three forms — unilateral action, non-legally binding memorandums of understanding with the EU, or “more formal arrangements.”
He cited the European Central Bank’s engagement with the Bank of England as an example of where this kind of cooperation on no-deal preparedness was already taking place and said to “have the best mitigation in place we would need the EU to be as forward leaning as we are willing to be.”