Have our cake and eat it? ‘No’ says Barnier

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Remember when Brexit bozo Boris Johnson said we could have our cake and eat it? Or when hardline Leaver Daniel Hannan declared 'nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market'?

Well, not surprisingly, it appears they were wrong.

Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier has made it clear: You walk away from the European Union you lose the benefits.

He said Britain will lose the benefits of the single market and our financial sector will lose the 'passporting' arrangements which allows it to operate in the remaining EU as a result of Brexit.

Barnier told a conference in the Belgian capital that the EU wants to offer its 'most ambitious free trade agreement' to the UK, but warned that there was no question of Britain 'cherry picking' elements of the single market which it wanted to keep.

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He warned that national parliaments in the remaining 27 states, as well as the European Parliament, could block any future trade deal if the UK indicated it was planning to move away from EU standards of regulation on issues like food safety, workplace protections and the environment.

And Barnier reiterated that it remained his priority to 'settle the accounts accurately' before moving on to trade talks.

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I his speech to the Centre for European Reform think tank, he added that it was for the UK to 'come forward with proposals' for how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, raising the possibility that different rules could be applied in Northern Ireland and the mainland.

Barnier even used Theresa May's much-mocked catchphrase 'Brexit means Brexit' as he dismissed the 'contradictions' of Leave supporters who argue that Britain can continue to enjoy some of the benefits of the single market while ditching its core principle of freedom of movement.

Pointedly noting that 'the UK knows the rules' because it had a part in drawing them up, he insisted that the principles of the market were 'non-negotiable'.

He added: 'We take note of the UK decision to end free movement of people. This means, clearly, that the UK will close the benefits of the single market. This is a legal reality.'

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