The Brussels bureaucrat insisted the EU would only open its markets to British firms if the Government continues to follow their rulebook. He also rebutted claims the bloc would be bounced into a trade deal if UK negotiators choose to open parallel discussions with Donald Trump’s United States. In an attempt to pile pressure on Brussels, the Prime Minister has said the UK will no longer follow the bloc’s regulatory rulebook after the post-Brexit transition period.
And his Chancellor, Sajid Javid, said we should be free to diverge from EU rules as part of any future deal.
Mr Barnier responded: “The challenge is not to have at our doors a neighbour who would become a champion of regulatory competition at all levels: fiscal, social, environmental … Millions of jobs are at stake in Europe.
“We therefore say to the British that the opening of our market will be proportional to their will to respect our rules of the game. Our trade agreement must be free and fair, free and fair.
“They are leaving the European Union, but do they also want to move away from the European regulatory model?
“The negotiation that begins will have to measure this distance between us and them…I repeat, in this new negotiation, we will not take the slightest risk of weakening or compromising the single market.”
Mr Barnier warned Brussels won’t be “overbidding” to seal a free-trade agreement with Britain as the Government plans to open negotiations with the likes of Japan, Canada and the United States.
He even said any future UK-EU pact could be hampered by any deal struck with Washington in the coming years.
“There will be no overbidding on our side,” the negotiator said.
“We know what is unacceptable to Europeans and we remember what has become of the proposed transatlantic free trade agreement with the United States. And when we say that any product entering our country must meet our standards, for example the ban on chlorinated chicken, we are enforcing this law.
“The British are free to experience whatever they want with the United States. But in any event, the conditions for entry into the European market will remain strictly applied, once again to protect our consumers and our businesses.”
Mr Barnier signalled Brussels could be ready to sign a so-called “equivalence” deal to allow future access to EU markets for British bankers.
Under the plan, the EU Commission would judge whether our rules are acceptable – and they can withdrawal access with just 30 days’ notice.
Mr Barnier said: “Some City actors have supported Brexit, not all.
“Our responsibility is to maintain financial stability in Europe. Let us not have short memories and let us remember the crisis of 2007-2008 due to the senseless behaviour of certain financiers who believed themselves to be allowed.
“Faced with this risk, in a world where financial derivatives scroll over our heads 600,000 billion dollars, we will be uncompromising.
“We will be ready to assign certain equivalences to facilitate exchanges with certain British financial institutions, but we want to be sure of a level of regulation and supervision comparable to ours over time.”
Mr Barnier will today meet with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar, who has praised the bloc’s negotiating team ahead of trade talks with Britain.
The Dublin leader suggested Brussels would have the upper hand because the larger EU would be more powerful.
“I think the reality of situation is that the European Union is a union of 27 member states. The UK is only one country. And we have a population and a market of 450 million people,” he said