Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, has given his strongest indication yet that the EU will oppose May's Chequers agreement. Meanwhile, May has written an op-ed saying she will not budge on the contentious compromise deal struck at Chequers.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on September 3, 2018

Barnier said that adopting a “common rulebook” for goods but not services was not in the EU’s best interests.

“Our own ecosystem has grown over decades,” he said. “You can not play with it by picking pieces.”

Barnier noted that goods and services are often inextricably linked and untangling them for the purposes of Brexit was not feasible. For instance, a mobile phone is a good but much of the value it provides comes from linked services.

He also maintained the EU would not be accepting the UK’s proposal on how customs would be treated post-Brexit. “We cannot relinquish control of our external borders and the revenue there to a third country – that’s not legal,” he said.

Barnier’s objections to the current Brexit model

“The British proposal is not practical,” Barnier said. “It is impossible to tell exactly where a product ends up, on the UK market or in the internal market. For example, sugar is transported by the tonne in 25-kilo sacks, so you cannot trace every sack to its destination. That would only be possible with insane and unjustifiable bureaucracy. Therefore, the British proposal would be an invitation to fraud if implemented.”

Barnier also insisted Britain provide specific details on its plan to avoid a hard border with Ireland and reveal the locations it proposes to station customs checkpoints. He sais the EU would not agree to any exit plan if this detail was not provided.

The issue has been a bone of contention between the UK and the EU with the latter proposing a border in the Irish Sea, creating a clear line between Ireland and the rest of the UK. The UK, however, has been adamant it will not accept this solution.

May’s Chequers Agreement has been unpopular within her own party

The Chequers Agreement has already been politically damaging for May, with key government members and Brexit hardliners such as David Davis and Boris Johnson resigning over the deal.

On The Andrew Marr Show, Davis said the Chequers agreement “is actually almost worse than being in”.

“We will be under the rule of the EU with respect to all of our manufactured goods and agri-foods, that’s a really serious concession; what about take back control, it doesn’t work?

“That actually leaves us in a position where they dictate our future rules without us having a say at all, so it’s a worse deal.”

Brexit is scheduled for March 2019

The UK government has insisted that the agreement is “precise and pragmatic” and would work for both sides. Initially, the negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU were supposed to conclude by October, but Barnier has said they could now extend into mid-November.

Even with the extended negotiation deadlines, both sides are running out of time to complete the UK’s exit, which is scheduled for March 2019. Before this can happen, however, both the UK parliament and the EU have to sign off on the deal.

Some senior Conservative Party figures have joined the call for a second Brexit referendum to provide a clearer mandate to leave the EU. The idea of a second referendum was first raised by Justine Greening, but in her opinion piece on 8 August, May reiterated that she would not be taking the country back to the polls.

“This government will fulfil the democratic decision of the British people by ensuring that the UK leaves the European Union on 29th March next year,” she wrote. “As we do so, we build a stronger, more meritocratic Britain that is fit for the future.”