The EU’s chief negotiator has written to Conservative MP Mark Francois reminding him that he voted for the Brexit deal he had written to him to complain about.
Francois, who is chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), wrote a letter to Michel Barnier titled ‘A Missive from a Free Country’ demanding that he find a compromise on some contentious points around trade, including policy on fisheries.
But in his reply, Barnier reminded the Tory MP that many of the issues had previously been agreed within the Political Declaration signed by Boris Johnson and voted through by MPs.
He wrote: “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.”
The letter, praised by many for its excellent use of written English, comes as Brussels encouraged European businesses to revive their preparations for a no-deal Brexit as it warned of “inevitable changes” no matter the outcome of trade talks with the UK.
Barnier politely explains to Mark Francois the content of the agreement that he and the rest of the ERG voted for. pic.twitter.com/kEPfOVfnEA— Jessica Simor QC (@JMPSimor) July 10, 2020
In his letter, Barnier pointed out that the outlines of a “comprehensive future partnership” between Britain and the EU had been negotiated with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and agreed between him and the EU27 in the Political Declaration in October 2019.
Barnier responded to Francois’ concerns about the role of the European Court of Justice after Brexit by quoting a paragraph from the declaration, reminding Francois that the declaration had been “agreed by your Prime Minister and voted for by the House of Commons, including yourself, as part of the Withdrawal Agreement ratification”.
He added: “All we are asking of the UK is to honour its commitments in the Political Declaration.”
Barnier also addressed points Francois raised about the “level playing field” — a trade-policy term for a set of rules that prevent businesses in one country gaining a competitive advantage over those in other countries — and deals on fishing waters, saying: “the two preconditions are also included in the Political Declaration signed by Prime Minister Johnson”.
A Letter from Mark Francois, Chairman of the ERG to Michel Barnier. pic.twitter.com/uHjyJ57ERZ— Andrea Jenkyns MP #StayAlertSaveLives (@andreajenkyns) June 29, 2020
Barnier, who has been in London for “informal” talks this week, has echoed the European Commission’s warning on Thursday that there are still “significant divergences” between the EU and the UK on a post-Brexit trade deal.
He also shared a commission document on Twitter, adding: “Regardless of the outcome, there will be inevitable changes on January 1 2021.”
The document, Getting Ready for Changes, told member states that the choices made by Boris Johnson’s administration in pushing to deviate from EU rules and opting not to extend the transition period beyond December meant “inevitable disruptions will occur” next year that would “risk compounding the pressure that businesses are already under due to the Covid-19 outbreak”.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has also warned that the UK needs to obey EU principles in order to achieve a Brexit “future relationship” deal.