Michel Barnier welcomes May's 'recognition of trade-offs' in Brexit speech

Posted On: 
2nd March 2018

The EU’s chief negotiator has welcomed Theresa May’s big Brexit speech today, saying she has recognised the “trade-offs” she must make to secure a deal with Brussels.

Michel Barnier pictured on Downing Street last month

Michel Barnier said Mrs May had provided “clarity” on the Government’s decision to leave both the customs union and the single market.

It came after Mrs May delivered a lengthy and detailed address on her aims for the Brexit deal, warning both wings of the Conservative party that “no one will get everything they want” from the negotiations.

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She also took aim at EU accusations that she is “cherry-picking”, arguing that “every free trade arrangement has varying market access”.



The speech was also welcomed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the head of the influential European Research Group of Conservative MPs.

He told PoliticsHome:  "The Prime Minister's speech is welcome a clear statement of how we can leave the European Union and maintain friendly relations with our neighbours."

And his pro-European colleagues reacted with cautious optimism on Twitter, with both Nicky Morgan and Sarah Wollaston welcoming the address. 






Despite Mr Barnier reacting positively,  Mrs May came under fire from outspoken MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who is one of the European Parliament sherpas for the Brexit talks.

“Theresa May needed to move beyond vague aspirations,” he said in a statement.

“We can only hope that serious proposals have been put in the post. While I welcome the call for a deep and special partnership, this cannot be achieved by putting a few extra cherries on the Brexit cake."

The speech also came in for criticism from Remain-backing politicians and the head of the TUC, Frances O'Grady.

“There is still a chasm between the Prime Minister’s rhetoric and reality," Ms O'Grady said. 

“A good Brexit deal for working people is possible, but not with her self-defeating red lines on the single market and customs union. 

“We need all options on the negotiating table to protect jobs, livelihoods, and rights at work, and to prevent a hard border in Ireland.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable claimed Mrs May's strategy was designed to quell dissent among her own MPs.

"Her speech outlined all the reasons why we should stay in the single market and customs union, but she will carry on regardless, driving us out to placate Brexiters in the cabinet," he said.