Michel Barnier has schooled Brexiteer MP Mark Francois on the Withdrawal Agreement that he and his European Research Group (ERG) colleagues voted for, and told him that him there was no ‘added value’ in leaving the EU.
Responding to a letter by the Eurosceptic MP titled a ‘missive from a free country’ on June 29, Barnier explained: ‘While nobody has been able to demonstrate to me the added value of leaving the most integrated economic and free trade area in the world, I have always respected the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU.
‘In this same spirit we approach the ongoing negotiations with your great – and indeed free – country.’
The EU’s chief negotiator told Francois that Brussels would hold Boris Johnson to the joint Political Declaration – a non-binding communiqué that broadly sets a free trade agreement between both parties – and reminded the ERG chair that the deal he was complaining about was one he voted for himself.
He continued: ‘The Political Declaration,’ he added, ‘[was] agreed by your prime minister and voted for by the House of Commons, including yourself’.
Barnier defended the need for level field guarantees from the UK. He said that for the sake of ‘fairness’ after five decades of ‘close economic connectedness… of sharing the single market’ and the UK’s ‘geographic proximity’ to Europe that assurances were ‘necessary’.
He also warned that Brussels would not agree to any economic partnership without a ‘balanced fisheries agreement’ based on ‘quota shares’ and ‘reciprocal access to waters’.
‘The two preconditions were also included in the Political Declaration signed by the prime minister Johnson,’ he highlighted.
‘We will continue to work with determination to conclude the negotiations with success as we continue to believe that this can be done despite the short time available, which is the choice of your government.’ Barnier said, referring to the Downing Street’s refusal to extend Brexit talks.
The French politician told Francois it had been a ‘pleasure’ to hear from UK elected representatives.
‘Having been an elected representative for many years myself I value the crucial role you play in scrutinising and holding your government to account,’ he said.
Otto English commented: ‘What do we learn from Michel Barnier’s letter to Mark Francois? We learn that he writes better English than Francois for a start. And secondly that he understands the complexity and seriousness of our leaving.’
Alan Firth tweeted: Barnier’s letter to Mark Francois, in which Francois is schooled in what his Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to, and which he (Francois) voted for, is a thing of beauty.’
James O’Brien wrote: ‘Michel Barnier having to explain to Mark Francois what Mark Francois voted for sums things up nicely.’
Francois later told the Telegraph that he was grateful for the ‘charming billet doux’. He said, ‘As he rightly acknowledged, we are now a free country – and indeed very happy to be so.’