Brexit: Barnier says UK should be able to agree 'ground rules' with EU on trade given PM's standards pledge – live news


Barnier has finished his speech. He is now taking questions.

Q: Has anything surprised you in the Brexit negotiations so far?

Barnier says what was surprising was that the PM could not reach a majority for a deal.

He says he once asked Nigel Farage what his vision was for life after Brexit. He says Farage told him that after Brexit the EU would no longer exist. He says that showed that, for some people behind Brexit, they wanted to use it to destroy the EU.

He says he is surprised by how far the British government has moved from its previous commitments (ie, in the Northern Irish protocol and in the political declaration). But the EU will have to check this in the coming days and weeks, he says.

Q: You say you think the British government is distancing itself from the withdrawal agreement, and what it said about Ireland. Do you think Ireland could unite in the coming years, and Northern Ireland rejoin the EU that way?

Barnier says he listens to everybody, including people from Northern Ireland and from Scotland. But he does not want to intervene in the national debate in the UK.

Q: What are the changes since 1973 that led to the UK leaving the EU?

Barnier says the UK joined the EEC mainly for trade reasons. But for Europeans, the EU is more than a supermarket, or a free trade zone. It has become an economic ecosystem. And that is why China and the US respect the EU, he says. That is why the EU will never let it unravel.

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He says there are specific British reasons for Brexit. But there are common popular views. There are many British regions where was is behind Brexit is “social anger”, and the feeling that the EU does not protect people. Politicians must take the time to listen, to understand and to respond, he says. He says it is too late to do this in Britain, but not elsewhere.

And he says you should not confuse this popular sentiment with populism. Populism used this sentiment, he says.

And he says there are answers to people’s concerns.

Q: How will the EU make up for the loss of the UK’s contribution?

Barnier says the UK has been a net contributor to the EU budget. The loss amounts to 1% of the EU’s GDP, he says. But he says there is a huge and very difficult debate about the budget. This debate has never been easier, but it has been made harder by the departure of the UK. The gap amounts to €10bn.



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