Don’t trust Barnier! EU chief’s bid to punish UK for Brexit will hurt Germany, ex-MEP says

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And Hans-Olaf Henkel said if Mr Barnier continued in his bid to force the UK to align with EU rules in a bid to impose the bloc’s level playing on a sovereign nation, he should be removed from his position. Mr Barnier and his UK opposite number, Lord David Frost, have now had eight rounds of negotiations aimed at thrashing out a trade deal by the end of the year – but significant obstacles on fishing and state aid remain.

Most Europeans, who follow the political scene in Brussels, still have full trust in the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier.That is not justified!

Hans-Olaf Henkel

The gulf between them was illustrated in a terse exchange on Twitter earlier this month, with Mr Barnier telling Britain to “stick to the rules” in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill, and Mr Frost swiftly hitting back by insisting the legislation was necessary to preserve peace and protect the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Henkel, a German former MEP who stepped down from the assembly last year, told “While even many British believe, that their Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is sometimes acting in an irrational and erratic way, most Europeans, who follow the political scene in Brussels, still have full trust in the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier.

“That is not justified! For instance, there is no reason for Barnier to insist on tougher conditions vis-a-vis Britain as compared to those which Brussels had agreed upon earlier for with Canada unless he wants to demonstrate some sort of punishment of Britain for her Brexit decision and by doing so sending a signal to other EU Nations like ‘that’s what you get for leaving!'”

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Mr Henkel added: “Not only have the British here a valid point, when they insist on equal treatment, it is also against the self-interest of the EU if Brussels keeps on insisting on tougher conditions with Britain as compared to those with Canada, Japan or Australia.

“There is no logic in the EU demanding that Britain adhere to so-called social, environmental or other standards if these were not also insisted upon in the case of other countries.”

On the contrary, by applying different conditions for Britain on one hand and other non-EU countries on the other, the EU itself was violating the concept of the “level playing field” which it has referred to throughout the Brexit saga, Mr Henkel pointed out.

He explained: “It is illogical to demand a level playing field between Britain and the EU and at the same time accepting different level playing fields with other nations.

“It is alright for the EU to insist on such similar playing fields within its own borders but it is arrogant to tell Britain to behave as if Brexit never took place.

“In fact, it is of advantage for the EU to have a more competitive neighbour.”

It was high time the EU dropped the condition, Mr Henkel said, adding: “If he doesn’t do that Michel Barnier should be replaced immediately as the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit.”

Meanwhile Mr Henkel also had some advice for the UK and Mr Johnson.

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He said: “Likewise, 10 Downing St should be more generous when it comes to granting fishing rights to fishermen from the continent.

“Also here, it is high time that Boris Johnson changes his negotiator and allows the successor to come up with a better deal in fishing rights.

“In the current dramatic economic situation on both banks of the Channel, the last thing both Britain and the EU need is a hard Brexit!”

Even with a deal, Brexit was a “lose-lose proposition” for both sides, Mr Henkel said.

He added: “Britain loses its largest customer, the EU does too.

“However, without a trade deal, Brexit would be a plain disaster.”

He also said there was a widespread failure to grasp the situation among people living in his own country and on the continent in general.

He explained: “Unfortunately, the public in Germany and the rest of Europe believes that Brexit is primarily a British problem.

“It is not! It seems that Michel Barnier is of the opinion, that Britain has much more to lose than the EU in case of a no-deal.

“That may be true, however it is of upmost importance also for the EU and especially for exporting nations like Germany, that after January 1, 2021 there is still a smoothly functioning common market between the EU and Britain.

“Otherwise, for instance, the British will have to pay much more for a German-built Volkswagen, Germans likewise for a BMW-Mini which is manufactured in Britain.

“Consumers here and there will pay more and jobs will be lost on both sides of the Channel.”

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