Thierry Breton, the new European Commissioner for the Internal Market, said Brexit would have a cost for the UK but hoped a good deal could be reached.The former Harvard Business School professor and French finance minister said: “We do not like Brexit but we respect the decision of the British people. As far as we are concerned, we will be strict: to access the European single market, the British will have to respect all our rules, especially environmental, social and health standards and also state aid control.”
Mr Breton warned the UK it would face trading under WTO rules if it could not strike a deal with Brussels.
He said: “A deadline of nine months has been set by the British Prime Minister. It is an extremely short deadline.
“It is good to remember that in the absence of an agreement it will be the basic rules of the WTO that will apply to the United Kingdom.”
He continued: “That is, in the end, a very unfavourable regime for the United Kingdom, which carries out about 45 percent of its trade with the EU.
“Obviously it is not what we hope for but we cannot exclude it either.
“In all cases, this Brexit will have a cost for our British friends. I regret it, but it is a fact”.
Brussels has been stressing the need for a level playing field in the upcoming trade deal negotiations, meaning that access will be strictly linked to commitments to social welfare and environmental standards, among others.
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier stressed the need for state aid limits too.
As a member state, Britain was bound by strict state aid rules enforced by the powerful European Commission to make sure there would be no unfair competition among EU nations in its vast single market.
Third countries are not immediately bound by such structures but negotiating a trade deal will still involve many compromises on rule setting.
Mr Barnier also insisted that Britain’s goal to have a full free trade deal by the end of the year was unrealistic.
He said: “We cannot expect to agree on every aspect of this new partnership. We are ready to do our best in the 11 months.”
During a transition period ending on December 31, a new relationship between the EU and the UK will be negotiated.
Full trade covers everything from fisheries to the airline industry to medicines, but the EU insists to deal with all these issues in one year is a pipe dream.
Boris Johnson has insisted he will not agree to any more delays – a vow that has set off alarm bells among businesses, which fear it means the country will face a no deal Brexit at the start of 2021.
But it all moved a step closer tonight after Mr Johnson’s Brexit Bill cleared the Commons.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was given a third reading by 330 votes to 231, majority 99.
The comfortable victory for the Prime Minister followed the influx of new Tory MPs and is in marked contrast to the tortuous attempts to steer a Brexit bill through the Commons before the December general election.
The Bill, which paves the way for Brexit on January 31, will now go to the Lords – where it could face a more difficult passage as Mr Johnson does not have a majority in the upper chamber.
Thierry Breton, the new European Commissioner for the Internal Market, said Brexit would have a cost for the UK but hoped a good deal could be reached. The former Harvard Business School professor and French finance minister said: “We do not like Brexit but we respect the decision of the British people.