European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned British ministers and businesses who are calling for “frictionless trade” with the EU after Britain leaves that that is “not possible”.
Addressing an EU business forum in Brussels, Mr Barnier said London’s “red lines” for a future trade relationship meant Britain was definitely leaving the single market and the customs union, while only membership of both permitted the current “frictionless” trading arrangements.
Citing disruption to cross-border traders processing VAT and a need for all EU imports of animals and animal products to be tested at borders.
Those issues are of particular concern to Ireland, with farming businesses on either side of the new UK-EU border on the island fearing disruption.
“This is one of the challenges that we have to address in the particular and unique case of Ireland, without recreating a hard border.
“Moreover, before these products can be exported from a third country to the European Union, the sanitary and phytosanitary conditions for these exports to take place would have to be established.
“One sees clearly, to speak frankly, the constraints that this entails for the agri-food industry,” he said.
Barnier added that a trading relationship with a country that does not belong to the European Union obviously involves friction.
Barnier explained that the decision to leave the EU has obvious consequences, consequences that are the direct result of the choices made by the UK, not by the EU.
“And we have to explain to citizens, businesses and civil society on both sides of the channel what these consequences mean for them.
“There is no punishment for Brexit. And of course no spirit of revenge.”
The EU’s chief negotiator stressed that time was tight for a deal by the time Britain will be automatically out of the EU on 30 March, 2019, adding that we must start to prepare as businesses, social partners, trade unions and civil society for the consequences of the UK’s sovereign decision.
“Whatever the outcome of the negotiations will be, from midnight on 29 March 2019, as things stand, the UK will be a third country which therefore will not have the same facilities or the same rights as a member state.”