Brexit: UK ‘hasn’t seen the back of Barnier’ claims expert
The Frenchman insisted Britain risks losing its zero-tariff and zero-quota trade with the bloc if it slips too far below European standards. He singled out the Government’s authorisation of a pesticide, which is banned by the EU, for use by sugar beet farmers in England. Despite Brussels’ 2018 ban on most neonicotinoids for use on outdoor crops, 11 European capitals continue to allow their use on an emergency basis.
The bee-killing pesticide is widely used in Belgium, Romania, Denmark and Poland, according to a recent analysis.
In an interview with a group of European newspapers, Mr Barnier hinted Britain could fall foul of the so-called “level playing field” rules by allowing the pesticide to be used.
The Brussels diplomat said: “One ought to be careful… otherwise there will be consequences in terms of going on exporting without tariff, without quota to our market.”
The Government’s decision to sanction emergency use of the pesticide, because of the threat posed to the sugar beet crop by virus yellows disease, has yet to prompt an official reaction in Brussels.
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Mr Barnier added: “Pesticides concern public health, the health of farmers, farm workers and consumers.
“Depending on where you set the threshold in that area it can also have an impact on competition and competitiveness.”
Under the UK-EU agreement, Britain is free to set its own laws and regulations while retaining tariff-free and quota-free trade of goods across the Channel.
But either side has the right to impose tariffs on the other if its companies are facing an unfair competitive advantage by significant changes to the rules.
Mr Barnier, who is stepping down from his role as the EU’s chief negotiator, warned Brussels will be “vigilant on all fronts” in policing Britain’s future standards.
Responding to claims of disruptions for cross-Channel trade, the Frenchman insisted it was here to stay as Brexit must have “consequences”.
The Brussels diplomat explained the deal would not be renegotiated to paper over any cracks in the 1,246-page agreement, which last year was secured in record time.
“There are mechanical, obvious, inevitable, consequences when you leave the single market and that’s what the British wished to do,” he said.
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He claimed both sides would have to live with the changes, including customs checks on farm goods and a ban on travellers bringing meat and dairy products across the border.
“This agreement will not be renegotiated be renegotiated, it now needs to be implemented,” he added.
Mr Barnier will retire as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator at the end of the month and will return to French domestic politics.
Ahead of next year’s presidential race, the Frenchman said he would “take back my place” in the centre-right Les Republicains party.
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In an attack on British newspapers, he fumed: “Unlike the caricatures that certain media or certain British tabloids have made of me, I have never been a Brussels super-technocrat.
“I remain a politician. I will take back my place in the political debate, first in the political family which has always been mine, even if I have been in a minority in that political family, notably on the European line.
“I am happy that in a few weeks I’ll go back to my country, which I miss, to meet citizens, who I miss.”
During the tense Brexit trade talks, UK negotiator Lord Frost often infuriated his EU counterpart by labelling him an “official” rather than politician.
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