Michel Barnier warns Theresa May that Brexit deal cannot be ‘unpicked’ by future Prime Minister

Posted On: 
18th September 2018

The EU is set to warn Theresa May that the final Brexit deal will be binding and cannot be "altered" by a future Prime Minister.

Theresa May is under mounting pressure to unblock talks with Brussels and reach a final Brexit deal

According to the Times, chief Brussels negotiator Michel Barnier is preparing to demand the UK provides assurances that it will not seek to change the terms of any withdrawal agreement struck by the Prime Minister.

This follows comments made by Michael Gove at the weekend that a future government could “choose to alter the terms” of any deal.    

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A spokesman for the Prime Minister yesterday insisted that the Environment Secretary "was simply setting out a matter of fact, which is that no Parliament can bind the hands of its successor".

But The Times reports that Mr Barnier is planning to demand that any agreement made with Mrs May also binds her successor.

According to the newspaper, a diplomatic note handed out at a recent meeting of senior EU officials warned that the UK’s legal system could leave room for post-deal changes.

It stated: “The Commission said to be careful because it was not clear what ‘miracles’ UK constitutional law could allow.

“It would be possible that [the EU] accepted painful compromises to avoid a failure and then the UK would want to continue negotiating because suddenly it’s possible again.”

Sabine Weyand, a senior German European Commission official and Mr Barnier’s deputy, reportedly added: “We [the EU] will need credible political promises from the UK.”

Mr Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday: "A future Prime Minister could always choose to alter the relationship between Britain and the European Union.

"But the Chequers approach is the right one for now because we have got to make sure that we respect that vote and take advantage of the opportunities of being outside the European Union."

A senior European diplomat said: “Regarding the future relationship [the EU] will have to keep in mind that the UK’s internal discussion is very controversial and very divided on ideas about the economic partnership.

“Statements about a future relationship cannot be too precise. [Donald] Tusk thinks it is important that the ongoing discussion in the UK is taken into account.”

The row comes as EU leaders prepare for a crunch summit in Salzburg this week, with the Northern Irish border dispute set to dominate discussions.  

Ahead of the meeting, Brussels diplomats reportedly warned that Mrs May will need to shift her stance on the contentious issue in order to unblock negotiations and reach a final agreement.

According to the Guardian, one senior diplomat said: “A lot of movement is needed by the UK side before we can actually reach agreement.”

A second source added: “It seems that the UK needs to have a ‘darkest hour’ moment before they will shift position. But they will have to shift their position.”