MICHEL BARNIER took a wrecking ball to Theresa May’s Brexit plan yesterday, describing some parts of it as ‘illegal’, ‘insane’ and ‘an invitation to fraud’.
The EU’s chief negotiator said if he went along with the Chequers agreement backed by the prime minister (pictured below) it would ‘kill the European project’.
He said the only way for her to preserve free trade is by allowing free movement of people in a Norway-style deal that she has ruled out. And he warned EU car-makers to stop buying British parts to protect against the return of tariffs.
‘The British could stay in the single market but they would have to take all the associated rules and contributions to European solidarity,’ he said. ‘But if we let them pick the raisins out of our rules, it would be the end of the single market and the European project.’ Mr Barnier poured scorn on Mrs May’s plans to avoid the need for border checks by collecting tariffs on behalf of EU nations if goods imported from other countries are to be sold on to them.
She wants EU members to do the same for Britain but he said there was no way he would agree to it.
‘We cannot relinquish control of our external borders and the revenue there to a third country — that’s not legal,’ he told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
‘Moreover, the British proposal is not practical. It is impossible to tell exactly where a product ends up, on the UK market or in the internal market.
‘That would only be possible with insane and unjustifiable bureaucracy. Therefore, the British proposal would be an invitation to fraud if implemented.’
Mr Barnier cited the EU’s free trade deal with South Korea as he issued his warning to car-makers.
The deal would no longer apply to vehicles if too many of their parts were from a country outside the bloc, he said.
A government spokesman said: ‘We are confident that we have put forward a proposal that is precise, pragmatic and that will work for the UK and the EU.’
Meanwhile, former Brexit secretary David Davis suggested the UK might be better off staying in the EU than leaving under the terms of the Chequers plan.
The leading Brexiteer told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We will be under the rule of the EU with respect to all of our manufactured goods and agri-foods.
‘That’s a really serious concession — what about “take back control?” In my view, the Chequers proposal is actually almost worse than being in. It leaves us in a position where they dictate our future rules without us having a say at all.’
The attack from Mr Davis came amid reports Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby is working to help Boris Johnson replace Mrs May in No.10. He is said to be preparing the ground by helping pressure group Change Britain mount a public campaign against the Chequers plan.
■ WOMEN are more in favour than men of staying in the EU says a new study. A YouGov poll of 18,772 adults finds 56 per cent of women back remaining while 44 per cent are happy to leave. Men back staying by 51 per cent to 49 per cent. The study, to mark the launch of Women for a People’s Vote, said three-quarters of women fear politicians will break Brexit promises, while just 13 per cent think Britain will get a good Brexit deal.