EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier did not tell British MPs that the U.K.’s Brexit proposals were “dead,” contrary to a Labour MP’s recollection of a meeting in Brussels Monday.
The claim — which is significant because it suggested that Theresa May’s strategy in the negotiations is already fatally undermined — emerged in questioning of 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].”
But a transcript of the Brussels meeting published Friday does not record Barnier using those words, despite being asked three times by different MPs if the U.K.’s white paper was “dead.” Instead he adopted similar language to his previous statements on the unacceptability to the EU27 of the “facilitated customs arrangement” — under which the U.K. would collect import tariffs on the EU’s behalf — and the proposed “common rule book” for goods and agri-food. He did, however, praise parts of the U.K.’s plan.
“When it comes to those two proposals, there is a real problem of substance for us, because they would weaken and would lead to the unravelling of the single market. That is why they are not acceptable, so you cannot ask us to make concessions on the very foundations of the European Union,” he said in answer to a question from committee chair Hilary Benn.
“How could we accept conditions that would run counter to our economic interests, which are based on the single market, which we built together with you? Why would we agree to weakening that single market today?” Barnier added.