No Brexit deal if UK slashes taxes and regulation - Michel Barnier
The EU will block a Brexit deal if the UK tries to slash taxes and environmental regulations, Michel Barnier warned today.
The chief Brexit negotiator on the Brussels side said there would be “no ambitious partnership” without a “level playing field” between the bloc and a newly independent UK.
And he warned that Britain will not be able to cherry-pick benefits from the EU, such as passporting, to trade freely across the continent.
At the end of the negotiation period, national parliaments around the EU and the European Parliament itself will have to ratify the proposed trade deal struck between the UK and the bloc.
Fears have been raised that the UK could slash taxes even further after Brexit to attract business and water down environmental standards to secure trade deals with other countries like the US.
But as he addressed the Centre for European Reform in Brussels today, Mr Barnier sounded a note of caution to the UK.
He said there was a “need to ensure a level playing field between us” in order to prevent Britain crashing out on World Trade Organisation terms when it leaves in March 2019.
“There will be no ambitious partnership without common ground in fair competition, stat aid, tax dumping, food safety, social and environmental standards,” he explained.
“It is not only about rules or laws. It is about societal choices – for health, food standards, our environment and financial stability.”
Mr Barnier went on: “The UK has chosen to leave the EU. Does it want to stay close to the European model or does it want to gradually move away from it?
“The UK's reply to this question will be important - and even decisive - because it will shape the discussion on our future partnership and shape also the conditions for ratification of that partnership in many national parliaments and obviously in the European Parliament.”
He said if those conditions were met and were combined with an “orderly withdrawal” and “respect” for the “integrity of the single market” the future trade deal could be “ambitious”.
Among the conditions he listed for the single market was that so-called ‘passporting rights’ - allowing financial firms to trade in EU states without being headquartered in them - will end.
“UK voices suggest Brexit does not mean Brexit,” he said. “Brexit means Brexit – everywhere.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting - who campaigns for the pro-EU Open Britain group - said: "Michel Barnier has confirmed that a hard Brexit will put more jobs at risk in our financial services sector."
He added: “Nobody voted for a hard, destructive Brexit that would cost jobs and make families worse off.
"Voters have the right to think again as the chaotic, confused Brexit process fails to match up to the promises of Leave campaigners and Government Ministers.”