Katarina Barley, Vice President of the European Parliament, has hit out at Boris Johnson’s claims on Britain’s future post-Brexit. The EU chief particularly fears Boris Johnson could turn the UK into a tax haven for companies – something the Prime minister has denied.
She told German news site T-Online: “Why should we give you unlimited access to our single market if you try to outdo us with such competitive advantages at the same time?
“We like you, but we’re not stupid.”
Ms Barley continued her tough approach and warned if the UK wants to purse its desire to gain competitive advantages over the EU, Brussels will not grant Britain access to the single market.
She said: “According to Johnson, Great Britain will try to gain competitive advantages with particularly attractive conditions.
“Everyone here in Brussels has a clear stance on this, from the Council to Parliament to the Commission: if London wants to go this way, it will not have privileged access to the single market.”
The EU chief said companies are “more likely” to choose a country within the EU, due to the benefits of the single market, than be based in the British Isles.
Ms Barley pointed out the three main issues facing the EU and the UK in the current trade negations: the retail sector, fishing and the rights of EU citizens.
She said: “The biggest issue is the retail sector, because the British side has so far pretended that access to the single market can still be achieved while the European Union standards are not met. This will not work.
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“There will also be a big discussion about fishing rights. This is a side issue, but very important for the EU-UK relationship.
“For us as the EU, it is also important how the rights of EU citizens in Great Britain are protected after Brexit.”
The EU chief said it was important agreement was reached over these three areas but expressed scepticism that a deal can be achieved within the time limit.
She said: “First, it’s not just these three areas.
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“In addition, there is, for example, the aspect of security, for example when exchanging data on terror suspects, but also when executing arrest warrants.
“The second is: we don’t even have a year! We are now starting negotiations. “Ratification is still pending at the end of the year. So we have about eight months.
“This is so little that it can only really work if you they in the end: we leave certain areas as they are in accordance with European law.”
On Monday trade talks between the EU and the UK officially kicked off, as David Frost – Britain’s chief negotiator – headed to Brussels.
The first round of talks, due to last four-days, will be used by both the EU and the UK to establish their opening positions and try to convince the other side they are serious.
The next stage of talks will be in held in London in two weeks’ time.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
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