Politics

Michel Barnier sheds light on clash with Farage branding Brexiteer a ‘liar to his face’

Brexit: Barnier says question will divide UK for ‘years to come’

The European Union’s former Brexit chief insisted he attacked Leave campaigners for their mistruths to “their face”. Mr Barnier, who is now a special adviser to Brussels on UK-EU relations, claimed the most influential Brexiteers had not discussed the “negative consequences” in the lead up to the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership. In an interview with France24, he said: “I think that everyone saw, during these long years of negotiations, that it was complicated and that it had many serious and negative consequences that had not been mentioned during the Brexit campaign.

“There have been lies. Mr Farage and others lied, demagogued, I told them to their face when I met them.”

Rowing back on claims that other states could follow the UK out of the EU exit door, Mr Barnier added: “I don’t think other countries want to do the same thing because they are educated about the consequences.

“A country that leaves the EU is possible, the EU is not a prison, you can leave it, but you have to take responsibility.

“The British have to take responsibility because now the Brexit is done.”

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In the candid interview, Mr Barnier was downbeat on the impact of Brexit on both the UK and EU.

The Frenchman said the divorce, which he negotiated for over three years, would be “lose-lose” for the two sides.

He said: “I still don’t understand the added value of Brexit, and for the UK and for us, I think it’s lose-lose.

“We are cut off from a great country and this great country is left all alone. It affects the United Kingdom more, obviously, there are more paperwork procedures, more constraints to trade, since it has chosen to leave this ecosystem that we form with the other European countries.

“Between us, we harmonise our borders, but there are controls with the United Kingdom now.

“The UK exports much more to us than Europe exports to the UK. There are constraints but as Theresa May said ‘Brexit means Brexit’.”

While he is planning on returning to France for a role in domestic politics, Mr Barnier suggested that UK-EU talks could continue for many years to come.

The Frenchman said the two sides would need to establish new cooperation frameworks for financial services and foreign policy.

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He said: “The mandate of the 27 has been fulfilled, we have done everything that was asked for.

“One thing that is missing but that was not wanted by the British is an agreement on foreign policy, development, cooperation with Africa, in particular.

“The British did not want to discuss this from the beginning, I regret this and I did not understand why because it was separate from trade and internal security. But it is important that we have a partnership framework with the United Kingdom, which is a big country, with a dynamic foreign policy, a credible defence, a seat on the UN Security Council.

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Brexit has ‘exposed consequences’ of leaving EU says Barnier

“There is another chapter that will have to be opened later with other negotiators for that part. But for the rest, what was agreed, a balanced and fair trade agreement, an agreement on energy, on transport, on homeland security, that’s what we did.”

And on the issue of financial services, Mr Barnier added: “They were not forgotten in the agreement, it was not intended to discuss them in this negotiation.

“There are procedures that we have used with all third countries that have financial services, and we will do the same thing unilaterally with the British in certain limited sectors, taking into account our interests and taking into account financial stability. And this stability is linked to conditions that we need: supervision, regulation, compliance with European rules.”

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