26 Jul 2018


Brexit, Brussels Daily

Statement by Michel Barnier at the press conference following his meeting with Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dominic and I just had a second constructive meeting.

I agree with what Dominic said last week – we must bring new energy into these negotiations.

And we will need to sustain this energy over the coming weeks in order to reach an agreement.

We both want to conclude in October, with a deal.

We have two main challenges.


  1. First, we need to finalise the outstanding issues of the Withdrawal Agreement, including a legally operative backstop for Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  2. Second, we need to agree on a political declaration on our future relationship.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me focus first on the future relationship.

Last Friday, I made some initial comments on the UK’s White Paper.

This week confirmed that the UK proposals on security mark a real step forward:

The UK has provided new guarantees on the protection of fundamental rights and the uniform application of law:

  • The White Paper commits the UK to membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • It recognises the European Court of Justice as the only arbiter of EU law.

These are important safeguards. They enlarge the possibilities of what we can do together on internal security, in particular on data exchange.

Based on the protection of personal data, and based on reciprocity, the EU and the UK can explore the modalities for close cooperation on the following points:

  • the exchange of DNA, fingerprints, and vehicle registration information (so called “Prüm”),
  • the exchange of Passenger Name Records to better track and identify individuals involved in terrorism and crime,
  • swift and effective extradition, based on the procedural rights for suspects.

Furthermore, I am particularly pleased with the progress in our talks on foreign policy and external security.

  • We have a shared understanding on how to organise our future close cooperation, including on sanctions, defence capabilities and crisis management. The UK is a member of the UN Security Council, and an important player in security and defence. Our cooperation is even more important in today’s geo-political context.
  • I recall that this EU-UK cooperation in defence will be in addition to what we already do in NATO, and to bilateral agreements between the UK and certain Member States.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In contrast, on our future economic relationship, it comes as no surprise that finding common ground between the EU27 and the UK is more difficult.

But we have agreed already on a common denominator: we both want an ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

In March, EU leaders proposed an unprecedented Free Trade Agreement.

Another area of convergence between the EU and the UK is the need for ambitious customs arrangements.

We are also both committed to a level playing field between our economies.

But, to be frank, we are not at the end of the road yet.

There are major issues to be discussed and questions to be answered.

We share a clear understanding on a core principle that will define our future economic relationship: the UK and the EU will both preserve the autonomy of their decision-making.

Both will preserve their regulatory autonomy.

The UK wants to take back control of its money, law, and borders, as Dominic said in an article this morning.

We will respect that.

But the EU also wants to keep control of its money, law, and borders.

The UK should respect that.

So, we share an objective in that regard.

A clear example of what this means concerns our future relationship in financial services.

  •  We discussed financial services this week and agreed that future market access will be governed by autonomous decisions on both sides.
  •  We recognised the need for this autonomy, not only at the time of granting equivalence decisions, but also at the time of withdrawing such decisions.
  •  And we agreed to have close regulatory cooperation, which will also have to respect the autonomy of both parties.


Maintaining control of our money, law, and borders also applies to the EU’s customs policy.

  • The EU cannot – and will not – delegate the application of its customs policy and rules, VAT and excise duty collection to a non-member, who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures.
  • Any customs arrangements or customs union – and I have always said that the EU is open to a customs union – must respect this principle.
  • In any case, a customs union, which would help to reduce friction at the border, would come with our Common Commercial Policy for goods.
  • President Juncker’s visit to Washington yesterday shows the importance of our Common Commercial Policy. It shows that we are stronger together.
  • Any customs arrangement will also have to be workable and must protect EU and national revenue, without imposing additional costs on businesses and customs authorities.

This is the framework within which we will work with the UK over the coming weeks.


Ladies and gentlemen,

This week, these customs discussions have also been the backdrop to the backstop.

We have a clear agreement between the EU and the UK that the Withdrawal Agreement must contain an all-weather insurance policy. We share the goal of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Let me recall why.

Because, as we agreed in December, the absence of a hard border has to be guaranteed no matter what the future relationship will be.

Of course, we have always said that a better solution in the future EU-UK relationship could replace the backstop.

This explains the “unless and until” provision of the backstop to which the UK has agreed.

Continued uncertainty on this issue after the UK’s withdrawal would be unacceptable for Ireland, for Northern Ireland, for the UK as a whole, and obviously for the EU27.


Ladies and gentlemen,

We also had agreed in March on the scope of the issues to be solved in the backstop.

This week, we focused on the customs element of the backstop.

The UK wants this to be UK-wide.

As I said last week, we have no objection in principle to this.

But we have doubts that this can be done without putting at risk the integrity of our Customs Union, our Common Commercial Policy, our regulatory policy, and our fiscal revenue.

We have had an open and frank – and therefore useful – discussion with Dominic and his team on these issues.

I think that the UK has understood our concerns and respects our principles.

And the UK has promised to come back to us with concrete proposals on how to address our concerns.

Both teams will reflect on this in the coming weeks. The next time we meet will be mid-August. We must advance and agree on a legally operative backstop solution to conclude the Withdrawal Agreement.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Before giving the floor to Dominic and taking questions, let me just add one more point.

I have been focusing on all the open issues and the work that we have ahead of us over the next few weeks to conclude the Withdrawal Agreement.

Let’s keep in mind that we have already agreed on a large part of this Withdrawal Agreement – more or less 80%.

This includes the very important issue of citizens’ rights, which has been our priority since the beginning of this negotiation, as well as the priority of the European Parliament. It continues to be our priority.

But the job does not stop here. We will also have to work on making sure that citizens can easily avail themselves of the rights that will be guaranteed in the Withdrawal Agreement.

We are working with the Home Office as well as with the Member States on this point.


Thank you for your attention.


Secretary of State: Statement following negotiation round Thursday 26 July

Thank you Michel for hosting us again.

It’s good to be back here in Brussels for a second time this month.

This meeting comes at a crucial moment in our negotiations.

A lot has been achieved to date, thanks to the hard work of teams on both sides.

We have reached agreement, as Michel says, on the rights of the four million citizens that have chosen to make their home in either the UK or the EU.

We have provided certainty for businesses through an implementation period that gives both sides the time they need to prepare for our new relationship.

We have reached agreement on the financial settlement.

And we are stepping up our efforts on our joint commitment, as Michel again has said, to respect the Belfast Agreement in all its parts, safeguarding the historic progress it has fostered over the past two decades in Northern Ireland.

Our job now — one that Michel and I share together — is to do three things.

First, we must complete the Withdrawal Agreement, concluding those remaining issues.

Discussions this week have moved us closer again to an agreement on the last few remaining remaining areas, including governance, data protection and administrative procedures.

Second, we need to complete the Protocol on Northern Ireland and Ireland.

We must meet our joint commitments through the overall future relationship between the UK and the EU, which will provide a substantive lasting solution.

But in keeping with our commitment to include legal text detailing the ‘backstop’ solution in the Withdrawal Agreement, we advanced in June a detailed proposal for the customs element of the backstop.

We believe this proposal represents a practical way forward. And it is an answer that respects the integrity of the EU, and the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.

Our teams have been discussing this issue in detail and at length, and while of course more work needs to be done, our teams are approaching this issue in the right spirit.

With pragmatism on both sides I am confident we can find a way to resolve it into a workable solution.

That will be easier to achieve if it is clear that the backstop, if it were to be exercised at all, could only be for a time-limited period before the permanent future arrangements would become operational.

And would not give rise to an extended limbo.

Last but by no means least, we need to work up a clear and precise vision for our future relationship, and set this out in a political declaration to be signed alongside the Withdrawal Agreement.

And on the basis that there is no deal until we have the whole deal, there will need to be a clear timeframe and obligation, written into the Withdrawal Agreement, to move expeditiously from this declaration to the conclusion of the binding agreements that will give it effect during the course of the implementation period.

Today Michel and I have discussed some of the key proposals set out in the UK’s White Paper on the future relationship.

Our approach is designed to strike a new and fair balance of rights and obligations for the UK and the EU.

One which respects the EU’s autonomy just as it does the UK’s sovereignty.

The contours of our proposal are now well known, but allow me just to recap.

On the economic side, a free trade area for goods that avoids either party imposing additional checks at the border, protecting integrated supply chains and the jobs and livelihoods dependent on them, and meeting our commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland.

This free trade area would be underpinned by a common rulebook and a new facilitated customs arrangement, with an institutional framework that I’ll return to shortly.

Alongside this free trade area for goods, there will be new arrangements for services.

While recognising our access will be different in future, we seek to minimise barriers to trade between the UK and the EU, with specific arrangements for financial services, tailored to our close and interdependent relationship in this particular sector.

We have proposed robust commitments to ensure trade is open and fair, and while I understand the EU’s underlying concern, the commitment to open and fair trade must of course be met on both sides.

We also want to see cooperation on energy and transport.

And we propose a framework for mobility that enables UK and EU citizens to continue to travel to each other’s countries, businesses and professionals to provide services, and our young people to enjoy the educational opportunities and the rich tapestry of cultural life right across Europe.

On the security side, our proposal is for arrangements that maintain existing operational capabilities the UK and the EU deploy to protect our citizens.

And it’s already clear from the discussions we have had this week that the White Paper has brought a new dynamic to this particular part of our wider conversation.

Next, we want to see continued coordination on foreign policy, defence and development issues – acting together to tackle some of the most pressing global challenges where it is more effective to work side-by-side.

Beyond trade and security, we propose a new arrangement to ensure the continued free flow of data.

Cooperative accords to strengthen joint work from science and innovation to international development.

And a new approach to our annual negotiations on access to waters and the sharing of fishing opportunities.

Underpinning all of this, we propose a joint institutional framework that respects our democratic prerogatives on both sides, ensures clear and consistent interpretation including of common rules, provides a clear and balanced approach to ending disputes through arbitration, and ultimately allows for the de-politicisation of our future relationship, which will need to be nurtured and reinforced over time.

Finally, I appreciate the questions that were posed by the Commission to my team on the Temporary Customs Arrangement.

We have addressed each one in detail and we will continue to address any outstanding concerns.

And we have published two White Papers, detailing comprehensively how we will incorporate in law the majority of the Withdrawal Agreement that has been agreed to date, and setting out our proposals as I have already outlined, for the future relationship.

We have designed our proposals both to respect the result of the referendum, and the core principles of the EU.

We have considered the innovative approaches the EU has taken in the past with other third countries — when the political will has been there.

In sum, the UK has set out our plans in detail.

Those plans are ambitious, principled and pragmatic.

I am committed to injecting new energy into these talks, along with Michel.

We have agreed to meet again in mid-August.

And then to continue weekly discussions to clear away all the obstacles that line our path, to a strong deal in October – one that works for both sides.

Michel, we’ve got work to do.

Copyright 2020 © - The Irish Farmers Association - Web Design Dublin by Big Dog