Michel Barnier speaks on third anniversary on Brexit
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Michel Barnier has insisted Brexit was a “lose lose game” for both the UK and the EU. Addressing the latest developments of the Brexit negotiations with Anand Menon on Wednesday afternoon, he told participants to a “UK in a Changing Europe” event: “There is no advantages for nobody. Brexit is a lose lose game for the two parts.”
Asked whether Brexit had made the EU stronger, he said: “I don’t think so. I think Brexit is a failure for the EU.
“And we have to think about this failure. The reason why 52 percent of the British people vote against the EU, against Brussels.
“I think we need to think about how to understand it and to avoid confusing what is the popular sentiment in some regions of the UK against Brussels and populism.
“There’s two, these are two different things. The same happens in France.
“We need our responsibility to understand, to look at and to answer what I call the popular sentiment, the feeling in many British regions against Brussels.
“The lack of jobs, no future, uncontrolled migrations. I think we need to answer and we have begun to answer.”
Mr Barnier said the EU was “changing strongly”.
He told the UK directly: “Let me stress this point: the EU is no longer what you left.
“It’s for you to take the consequences of what I said but the EU is changing and changing strongly.
“We are less naive in our trade relations. We have put in place a new control for our borders with 10,000 ne posts to control the borders.
“Have made this decision from February for the first time in 60 years to borrow together, not a small amount, but 750 billion euros, linked to the Covid crisis, to invest together.”
Mr Barnier’s comments come as Downing Street said on Wednesday that there are still “significant gaps” between the UK and European Union over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements, as it played down speculation about a breakthrough.
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Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said there was “lots of work to do” in all areas of the talks around the Northern Ireland Protocol.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said there were “constructive” talks with the UK but “everything is only negotiated at the very end”.
The comments followed reports – described by No 10 as “speculative” – suggesting that an agreement on customs had been reached.
According to The Times, the EU has accepted a plan that would avoid routine checks on goods going into Northern Ireland.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to avoid a hard border with Ireland.
It moved regulatory and customs checks on goods to the Irish Sea, creating economic barriers on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
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The Times reported that the customs deal is largely based on the Government’s proposals for a red and green lanes system – with the green lane for goods from Great Britain which are staying in the region and the red lane to check and control products going on to the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.
A separate agreement would be negotiated on exports of meat and live animals to Northern Ireland, with the UK agreeing to maintain EU veterinary standards on goods destined for the province.
Citing government sources, the newspaper also reported that Brussels has made concessions on the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a key sticking point in UK-EU talks.
For the first time, it recognised that the ECJ could rule on Northern Ireland issues only if a case was referred by courts there, the newspaper said.
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman played down the prospect of a breakthrough.
He said: “No deal has been agreed, there is still lots of work to do on all areas, with significant gaps remaining between the UK and EU positions.
“Talks are ongoing on potential solutions including on goods.”
Speaking in Brussels, Ms von der Leyen said she had a “very trusted and excellent relationship” with Mr Sunak and their teams were “working together to find solutions”.
She said: “As always in negotiations, you know the principle that everything is only negotiated at the very end when you know what the result is and you give a final signature.”
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