“The UK will lose the benefits of the Single Market. This is a legal reality.” European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier, speaking at a Centre for European Reform conference in Brussels, couldn’t have been clearer with these words.
Talking about Britain’s departure and the future of the EU, Barnier cited keys to building a strong partnership with the exiting nation. One is the need to agree on the terms for an orderly withdrawal, and another is the need to ensure a level playing field.
What would perhaps interest the insurance industry the most is the second of the three keys he discussed, which is the integrity of the Single Market. And let’s just say the speech sent out a rather strong message.
“There are two contradicting sound bites from ardent advocates of Brexit: The UK will finally ‘set itself free’ from EU regulations and bureaucracy, some claim,” he said. “Others claim that – after Brexit – it will still be possible to participate in parts of the Single Market. Simply because we have been together for more than four decades, with the same rules, and we can continue to trust each other,” said Barnier. “None of these views seems to offer a sound basis for going forward.”
He continued: “The same people who argue for setting the UK free also argue that the UK should remain in some EU agencies. But freedom implies responsibility for building new UK administrative capacity.”
“On our side, the 27 will continue to deepen the work of those agencies, together. They will share the costs for running those agencies. Our businesses will benefit from their expertise. All of their work is firmly based on the EU Treaties which the UK decided to leave,” stressed the chief negotiator. “Those who claim that the UK should ‘cherry-pick’ parts of the Single Market must stop this contradiction.”
Barnier explained that the EU does not want to punish the UK, but that it is simply drawing “the logical consequence” of the latter's decision to take back control. “On financial services, UK voices suggest that Brexit does not mean Brexit – Brexit means Brexit, everywhere,” he said.
“The integrity of the Single Market is not negotiable,” stated Barnier.
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