Barnier says Britain is asking too much of EU in Brexit talks

epa08249597 European Commission's Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, Michel Barnier attends a Seminar for a Business Master Class on Brexit at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 26 February 2020. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

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Britain is seeking a trading relationship with the European Union that is too close to that of an EU member, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday, urging London to adjust its demands in the four months left to reach a deal.

Britain left the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, on Jan. 31 after 47 years of partnership to the huge regret of EU leaders who now insist that London accept the economic consequences of looser ties.

“The truth is that in many areas (Britain) is demanding a lot more than Canada, Japan or many of our other (trade) partners,” Barnier told a forum in Brussels, referring to sophisticated trade deals that Britain would like to emulate.

“In many areas it is looking to maintain the benefits of being a member state without the constraints,” Barnier said. “It is looking to pick and choose the most attractive elements of the (EU) single market without the obligations.”

Last week, a British official involved in the negotiations said it was “obvious” the EU had to show more flexibility in talks.

Under the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, both sides need to reach a deal by the end of October, leaving about four months for an accord.

Top British officials are expected to hold talks with Barnier on Friday before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Barnier’s boss, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the chairman of the 27 EU leaders, Charles Michel, later this month.

Barnier said the main problem was Britain wanted quota- and tariff-free access to the EU while diverging from rules that govern the bloc.

He said Britain is seeking “almost complete freedom of movement” for some British businesses, full recognition of professional qualifications and for some customs rules and procedures to be recognised as equivalent.


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