Response to Barnier speech:

EFTA 4 UK response to speech by Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom

In Brussels, on 22 March 2017 Monsieur Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the EU in relation to Brexit negotiations made a speech which we would like to respond to.


Our commentary is in Bold.



In the speech he said:

“Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

For 44 years, the European Union and the United Kingdom shared a common project.

We have built the single market together by removing the borders between ourselves and adopting common rules for the free movement of goods and services.

We have created together European citizenship, which adds to national citizenship, and consolidates the values ​​of the rule of law, peace and democracy that are at the heart of European identity.

We have accompanied together the reunification of Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The United Kingdom has been ambitious to open up its labor market to nationals of the acceding countries and we have committed to co-financing together in the long term to reduce the historical and territorial divide on our continent.

This joint project will continue, but now without the United Kingdom.

The decision of a majority of British citizens to leave the European Union led to an exceptional situation.

We now know that the United Kingdom will formally notify its intention to leave the Union on 29 March. This notification will formally trigger a two-year bargaining period.

On the basis of this notification, the 27 Heads of State and Government, as well as Presidents Tusk and Juncker, will work for a few weeks on the orientations I will need to conduct this negotiation, respecting the Council’s mandate and Confidence with the European Parliament.

The Brexit will have important human, economic, financial, legal and political consequences.

Let us realize that the absence of an agreement would have – for everyone – even more serious consequences:

Yes there would be serious consequences, so we should not leave with “no deal” as some Eurosceptics suggest.

More than four million British citizens in the EU and European citizens in the UK face total uncertainty about their rights and their future;

We suggest an initial transitional ten year ‘grace period’ for EU citizens and UK citizens (those already present in the territories concerned) to remove uncertainty. During this period, citizens’ rights would be respected.

Supply problems in the UK, which would disrupt value chains;

The reintroduction of binding customs controls, which would ineluctably slow down our trade and generate lorries of trucks at Dover;

Which is why we need a deal on Customs co-operation and Rules of Origin (ROO) building on existing WTO rules. 

Very severe air traffic disruptions to and from the United Kingdom;

Which is why we need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EU; building on rights and obligations under the Chicago Convention, which established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

A suspension of the circulation of nuclear material in the United Kingdom, which would end up overnight outside EURATOM.

Again, we need a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EU; building on rights and obligations under the IAEA Statute via the the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United Kingdom would be seriously affected by this situation: two thirds of its trade is currently framed – and protected – by the single market and the free trade agreements concluded by the European Union with more than 60 partner states.

Which is why we need to agree interim agreements with those third countries using what are called ‘exchange of notes/letters’.

But the Union would also be affected, even though we will continue to benefit from the single market of 27 and our free trade agreements in all cases.

This scenario of a non-agreement, a no deal, is not ours.

And we should have a deal. No deal is foolish.

We want an agreement. We want to succeed.

Success not against the British, but with them.

Good to hear.

That is why, on behalf of the 27 and with the whole team around me, I want to say that we want to reach an agreement on an orderly withdrawal from the United Kingdom and to prepare the way for a new partnership.


We must therefore speak today of the conditions of this success.

The first condition is the unity of the 27, which goes hand in hand with transparency and public debate. Since I took up office on 1 October, Over the past few weeks, I have started a second round of the national parliaments, trade unions and professional organizations.

During this period and for the duration of the negotiations, I will naturally work in close cooperation with the Council, the European Parliament and all other bodies and institutions of the European Union.

That is why – Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen – I am happy to be before the Committee of the Regions today. I was working with the Committee when I was Commissioner for Regional Policy.

Unity is the first condition for reaching an agreement in the negotiations.

It is of course in our interest. But it is also – and I want to say this to our British partners – in the UK’s interest. Because, at the end of the day, we will both need – you and us – a united Europe to reach a deal.

A good deal is in everyone’s interest.

I would add another point: this unity will be strong when it is built on transparency and public debate. These negotiations can not take place in secret.

We will negotiate in a transparent and open manner, explaining to everyone what we are doing. During these negotiations, we must also explain objectively what “leaving the European Union” means, for the.

Brexit means.

The second condition for reaching an agreement is an uncertainty created by the European Union.

This uncertainty is first and foremost that of the four and a half million citizens:

The Polish students who have access to British universities under the same conditions as British students;

The British pensioners, who are resident in Spain and who benefit from healthcare under the same conditions.

The Romanian nurses and doctors who contribute to the quality of healthcare in the United Kingdom;

Or the engineers from Italy, or elsewhere, who thing to work in the United Kingdom, just like the people of British people who have made the same choice to work in Berlin, Rome or Vienna.

We hear their doubts. We understand their worry, and we must act effectively in response. Guaranteeing their rights as European citizens, in the long term, will be our absolute priority from the very start of the negotiations. Our watchword will be: “Citizens first!”

See our earlier points.

The issues at play are complex, whether they are residency rights, access to the labor market, pension or social security rights, or access to education. We will work methodically on each of these points. We will not leave any detail untouched, and we are already working with all Member States on this.

It will take time, several months certainly. We must do serious legal work with the United Kingdom.

But we can not accept the fact that we are not in a position to do so.

Next is the uncertainty for regional and local authorities and all beneficiaries of programs that are currently financed by the European budget.

Who are we talking about?

Beneficiaries of the European Social Fund, which – with almost € 90 billion for all regions – helps those men and women who are least qualified and have the most difficulty in finding work.

Beneficiaries of the European Regional Development Fund: we are talking about almost € 200bn to support regions in economic difficulty and regions that are isolated.

Beneficiaries of the Juncker Investment Plan; Almost € 315bn of investments, thanks to which we are fighting climate change, for instance by wind farm financing in Belgium. The plan also supports advanced infrastructure in healthcare and energy in the UK.

Beneficiaries of the Horizon 2020 research program, which allows the EU to invest almost € 80bn in science and industrial innovation, which helps us face up to the big challenges of our time.

All these programs:

We approved them together, at 28, with the United Kingdom.

We finance them together, at 28.

We benefit from them, at 28.

Each country must honor its commitments to each other. When a country leaves the Union, there is no punishment. There is no price to pay to leave. But we must settle the accounts. We will not ask the British to pay a single Euro for something they have not agreed to as a member.

In the same way, the United Kingdom, its citizens, companies and regions. This is the mutually responsible way to act.

If I may quote one of the greatest men of European history – Winston Churchill: “the price of greatness is responsibility”. That is true for Britain and for us.

The UK should pay its debts. However, the UK has been a net budget contributor for decades. This should be taken into account.

A third uncertainty created by the UK decision to leave concerning the new borders of the Union. I think particularly of Ireland. I was Commissioner in charge of the PEACE program. I understand the Union’s role in strengthening dialogue in Northern Ireland and supporting the Good Friday Agreement, of which the United Kingdom is one of the guarantors.

That is why we will be particularly attentive, in these negotiations, to the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the Customs Union, and in any way that may, in one way or another, weaken dialogue and peace.

We should work towards the best deal for Ireland North and South possible – based on the pre-existing Common Travel area precedent and the WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement, which mandates smooth and efficient border co-operation.


Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

There is a third condition for success: we have to do things in order and put them into perspective. The challenge is to build a new relationship between the EU and the UK on a solid foundation. This implies putting things in order: first, finding an agreement on the principles of an orderly withdrawal from the United Kingdom, and then discussing, with confidence, our future relationship.

The sooner we agree on the principles of an orderly withdrawal, the sooner we can prepare for this future relationship.

On the contrary, if we do not remove the uncertainties, if we reject the difficult subjects at the end of the negotiation: we run to failure.

Of course there will be hard times.

But I have always observed one thing in my public life: obstacles are always easier to overcome when you have a perspective and a horizon.

What is this perspective?

That of a “new partnership” between the European Union and the United Kingdom. For a long time, and precisely since my first citizenship vote – in 1972 – for the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Community, I am convinced that we are permanently linked with the UK by a community of interests and values . This new partnership, it is not too early to sketch the outlines today, even if it is too early to negotiate. At the center of this partnership is the free trade agreement that we will negotiate with the UK at the appropriate time.

This free trade agreement will not be equivalent to what exists today. And we must all prepare for this situation.

The United Kingdom opted to leave the internal market and the customs union. It will be a third State in two years.

For its part, in making this choice, the United Kingdom will find itself mechanically in a less favorable position than a Member State of the Union.

Nor will it be able to participate in the Single Market card.

The situation will indeed be different, whether it will ultimately be better or worse is debatable.

There is no precedent for such a free trade agreement: until now, all trade agreements concluded by the European Union – with more than 60 partner countries, for example with South Korea and Canada – Have entered into a process of regulatory convergence.

The Brexit creates a different situation, since our standards and rules are perfectly integrated at the very beginning of the negotiations.

Indeed they will. We will be able to make a sound claim of convergence in most areas.

What is before us, therefore, is not the prospect of regulatory convergence, but the risk, the likelihood of regulatory divergence that could harm the internal market.

We will therefore be vigilant that this regulatory divergence does not turn into regulatory dumping. The governments, the European Parliament, the negotiator that I am, but also the national parliaments and civil society.

If this were not the case, this negotiation would lead to misunderstandings and oppositions against the free trade agreement itself.

The UK is unlikely to diverge too much. The ‘worst’ that will happen is that it will fall back on looser International standards, many of which the EU has to operate within anyway.

And I remind you that this agreement will in any case have to be ratified by all the Member States and their national parliaments.

To prevent this, we must ensure a level playing field and enforce them effectively. Guaranteeing this level playing field – these common rules of the game – will be essential.

We agree with Theresa May when she calls for a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement .

Yes to ambition! But this ambition will also apply to the social, fiscal, environmental and consumer protection standards to which European citizens rightly.

Our community of values ​​and interests with the UK goes well beyond trade.

We have ambition for our research and innovation networks, our laboratories and our universities, although the regulatory and financial framework for our current cooperation will obviously be different.

The EFTA countries participate in many Europe-wide programmes relating to science and research co-operation. We hope the UK will continue to do so.

We have the ambition to fight climate change, where we can do better by staying together in the spirit of our joint commitments made at the Paris Conference.

The UK is signed up to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) so we will work together on green/environmental issues after Brexit. 

We have ambition for international cooperation and development.

We have ambition in the field of internal and external security, be it in the fight against terrorism, exchange of information, combating hybrid threats or cyber security.

I say this today in particular, thinking with emotion about the victims of the 22 March attacks here in Brussels and the victims of so many other attacks in Europe and in the world.

The UK is willing to continue to work with the EU via Interpol, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and will likely wish to sign a co-operation deal with EUROPOL.

We have ambition in defense.

On this point, the United Kingdom has always played an active and important role, with many European countries within NATO, but also in several European initiatives and operations related to the common foreign security and defense policy.

In the efforts that will be led by the 27 in their own defense, on the basis of proposals made by Federica Mogherini and the Commission, we must therefore open the possibility of bilateral cooperation with the United Kingdom.

The UK shares defence co-operation arrangements with EU countries via NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Naturally, the safety of our fellow citizens does not go away.

In negotiation, security can not be weighed against economic and commercial interests.


Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

Once we have agreed on the outline of the new partnership, we will be able to identify the necessary transitional arrangements.

This new partnership will take time, as we know, whether it’s the free trade agreement or any other form of cooperation.

A number of transitional arrangements may be required.

It is too early to say.

In any case, these possible arrangements would necessarily be governed by European law and the associated judicial system.

Their duration would be strictly limited.

And they would not be able to allow any one-size-fits-all market.

Our intention is to succeed in this negotiation.

As is ours.

We will be firm, without being naive.

I spoke to you frankly today so that everyone understood the conditions for success:

To work together at 27, always, in transparency and public debate;

To remove as soon as possible the uncertainty created by the British decision to leave the European Union for the citizens first, for the beneficiaries of the European budget and the new borders of the Union;

Put things in order and put them into perspective.

We will then be able to engage on a solid basis the discussion of our future relationship.

Since I am talking about the future for the 27, is it necessary to insist that the challenges, the challenges and the new European agenda are not limited to Brexit?

The priority is and will be to strengthen and, when necessary, reform our Union to meet our common challenges.

The European Commission, led by its President – Jean-Claude Juncker – initiated this debate by publishing a White Paper on the future of Europe.

This week the Heads of State and Government meet in Rome to celebrate the 60 th anniversary of our founding treaty.

Despite the crises, despite the Brexit and the difficulties, this anniversary can not be nostalgic or defensive.

It is the moment of a new beginning for union and action.

Yes, let Brexit be a new beginning for all the countries of Europe, those of the EU, EFTA and the EEA.


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