The senior adviser to chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that a post-withdrawal transition period is “not a given” as he pointed to tensions between Brussels and London.
Speaking at an event in London, Stefaan De Rynck said the EU’s goal was to have a fully-written withdrawal treaty ready for ratification by October next year, but stressed many issues needed to be worked out in the tight timeframe and that Britain would not be allowed to pick and choose a “buffet” option.
“In that withdrawal treaty there could be a transitional arrangement, transition period, implementation period, which the Prime Minister refers to. That is not a given today, let’s be very clear about that.”
Mr De Rynck said there were tensions regarding sectors like the pharmaceutical industry and financial services.
“There is some tension between the ideas that emerge in this capital … and if you look at the April guidelines of the European Council, which have been reconfirmed, you can feel some tension.”
Mr De Rynck said the UK would have to recognise the integrity of the single market and customs union during the whole of any transition period, adding: “No cherry-picking, or what one could call a buffet-style transition where one picks and chooses the bits one likes.”
He stressed that a free trade agreement (FTA) could not be done on a sector-by-sector basis, as has been suggested by some Brexiteers who want different rules for areas like the car industry, or the City.
“There can be no sector-by-sector participation in the single market, and trying to square the FTA in a way that would lead to a sector-based participation in the single market would, for the EU, be the beginning of the end of the correct functioning and the integrity of the single market, and that is therefore something the EU will want to avoid,” he said.
Mr De Rynck said Brexit was a lose/lose scenario for both sides.
“For us, I don’t think we will ever label Brexit a success. It’s a mutual weakening, I think, of two parties.
“Economically, for us, Brexit is a lose/lose situation. So, our negotiation here is not like we had with Japan, how do you create value together, but, how do you minimise losses economically on both sides?