Michel Barnier shoots down Theresa May’s Brexit customs plan.

Michel Barnier effectively killed off Theresa May’s customs plan in Brussels on Thursday as he warned that the European Union would never accept British officials collecting duties on its behalf after Brexit.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator refused to accept that Britain had “evolved its position” and he offered no concessions in return for the Prime Minister’s soft Brexit plan, which led to the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson after crunch Cabinet talks at Chequers.

Instead, he said that the UK could still join “a customs union”, which would mean Britain could not make its own trade deals after Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s White Paper, which squeaked through Parliament by a handful of votes, calls for Britain to sign up to a common rulebook and customs arrangements with Brussels as if the UK and EU were part of the same customs territory. British customs officials would collect duties on goods imported to the UK but destined for the EU.

“The EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy, of its rules, VAT and excise duty collections to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures,” Mr Barnier said after meeting the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab in Brussels following the latest week of Brexit negotiations.

“The UK wants to take back control of its money, law and borders. We will respect that. But the EU also wants to keep control of its money, law and borders. And the UK should respect that,” he added.

Mrs May is dispatching ministers around Europe to try to win support for the plan but Mr Barnier said, “Anyone who wants to find a sliver of difference between my mandate and what the heads of government say they want is wasting their time, quite frankly.”

Mr Raab, who admitted the plans were subject to negotiation, told reporters: “We have designed our proposals both to respect the result of the referendum, and the core principles of the EU. Those plans are ambitious, principled and pragmatic.”

Mr Barnier’s comments will heap yet more pressure on the beleaguered Prime Minister, who took personal charge of the Brexit negotiations this week.

Priti Patel, the Tory MP who was sacked from the Cabinet by Mrs May, said on Twitter that Tories must “respect the voices, views and opinions” of party volunteers after one Conservative association accused the Prime Minister of betraying Brexit with the plan that Brussels has now scuttled.

Mr Raab said that any backstop to prevent the Irish border should be “time-limited”. But that was contradicted by Mr Barnier, who said any backstop must be “all weather”.

“It is Brexit that has created this problem between Ireland and Northern Ireland which does risk the Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

Mr Barnier also ruled out the EU accepting any British efforts to make payment of the £39billion Brexit bill conditional on a future free trade agreement at a press conference alongside Mr Raab, who doubled down on his call for the two issues to be linked.

Mr Barnier said that it was “perfectly clear” to the EU27 and European Parliament that the financial settlement agreed in December and March was “agreed for good”.

The EU’s negotiator did praise British negotiators for progress made on future security, judicial and foreign policy cooperation and said that talks would resume at the end of August.

He welcomed British assurances that the UK would never leave the European Convention of Human Rights and recognise the European Court of Justice as the sole arbiter of EU law.

Both Mr Raab and Mr Barnier said they would intensify talks to meet the October deadline, which would allow five months for the ratification of the final deal before the March 29 2019 Brexit deadline.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

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