Michel Barnier makes huge error as EU’s Brexit strategy crumbles

From the outset of Britain’s post-Brexit trade negotiations with the EU, Michel Barnier has insisted the UK must stay permanently tied to the bloc’s employment, environment and competition laws. Such a move, championed by the chief Brexit negotiator, would mean the British Government would be forced to change its domestic law in accordance with the EU, despite having left the bloc. But the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has warned such a stance is now completely out of touch.

The business expert wrote in a column for the newspaper: “The central pillar of the EU’s Brexit strategy is crumbling.

“Brussels can no longer plausibly pretend that Europe’s state aid and competition regime is sacrosanct.”

He said the bloc’s response to the coronavirus pandemic highlights striking equalities across Europe.

Mr Evans-Pritchardsaid the north and south are perusing “radically difficult policies according to their economic means”.

For example, Germany is currently utilising 52 percent of the $1.9trillion (£1.6trillion) EU state aid approvals since the pandemic struck.

This is in contrast to the southern states, who are tipped to enter deep financial recessions at the end of the pandemic.

UBS, a global investment banking company, predict Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio could exceed 175 percent, while Jefferies, another investment banking firm, forecasts that France’s debt could top 140 percent.

Thierry Breton, the French EU industry commissioner, said the EU system will fall apart if Germany is allowed to spend $100billion (£87billion) to help its struggling companies ward off the pandemic, while France is spending just $20billion (£17.5billion).

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Professor Lorand Bartels, an expert on trade law and Brexit at Cambridge University, agreed the EU’s response to coronavirus highlights disparity within the bloc.

He said: “It destroys the argument that the EU is rule-compliant. It hits that narrative on the head.”

As a result, the commentator argues Mr Barnier’s insistence that the UK must adhere to level playing field clauses, which state Britain must follow existing and future EU rules, is no longer plausible – if it ever was.

He said: “The level playing refrain has become a sick joke.”

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He said: “Michel Barnier cannot repeat with a straight face that European commerce is uniquely governed by level playing field principles and that Britain must therefore submit to the EU’s legal structure under the writ of the European Court.”

Mr Evans-Pritchard branded the level playing field demand a “power play” which has already began to fall apart.

He said: “It was and is a pure power play, an attempt by a larger economic bloc to pressure Britain into giving up normal sovereign prerogatives.

“It is speciously justified by the claim that this island economy is too big and too close to the EU to allow for any other settlement.”

The UK is due to reconvene for their second round of virtual trade talks next week.

The two sides have until the end of the year to thrash out a deal, as Boris Johnson has insisted the EU transition period will not extended beyond December 31.

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