Thursday, January 21, 2021

Barnier warns post-Brexit border friction is the new normal

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Michel Barnier has warned that many of the new regulatory frictions hampering cross-Channel trade will be impossible to iron out, as the inevitable consequences of Brexit begin to manifest for businesses across Europe.

The EU Brexit negotiator said some things had ‘changed for good’ as a result of the UK’s political choices, noting that ‘there are mechanical, obvious, inevitable consequences when you quit the single market and that’s what the British wanted to do ”.

In an interview with a group of journalists, he pointed out that Britain risked losing its duty-free, quota-free trade rights with the EU if it strayed too far below European regulatory standards, highlighting controversy recent on a United Kingdom. government decision to authorize a previously banned pesticide.

Two weeks after the end of the British transition period for Brexit, Industries are still agreeing to changes to their trading terms, as Whitehall fears that port disruption threatens supermarket supply shortages, and UK sectors, from seafood exporters to professional musicians, struggle to overcome new obstacles to accessing the EU.

Mr Barnier said some upheavals since January – such as companies limiting cross-Channel trade as they navigate new red tape – reflected adaptation issues that led to ‘glitches, problems, breakdowns’ that should be addressed. resolved over the coming weeks and months.

But it has also been clear that both sides must learn to live with the structural changes resulting from Brexit, from controlling agricultural imports to banning travelers from bringing meat sandwiches when crossing the border. exterior.

“This agreement will not be renegotiated, it must now be implemented,” he said.

Singer Dua Lipa supported a petition asking for a free cultural travel permit for musicians © Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic

Mr Barnier, who is due to step down as chief negotiator in the coming weeks, has specifically put the blame for all the difficulties facing British musicians directly on the doorstep of the UK government.

Musicians, including Laura Marling, Biffy Clyro and Dua Lipa, have backed a petition calling on the UK government to negotiate a ‘free cultural work permit’ with the EU, amid concerns over post-Brexit limits on travel without visa and requirements. the labor market rules of the different EU Member States.

But Mr Barnier said the EU had offered special travel rights for musicians as well as journalists and artists in future negotiations on the relationship, only so that the UK would not accept the offer. .

“I very much regretted the fact that in terms of mobility between the two camps, the British did not show more ambition. We had a number of initial proposals on this, ”he said. “Of course, it takes two to come to an agreement,” he said.

A proposed trade deal, released by the European Commission in March, offered enhanced visa waiver rights for several categories of people, including “sportsmen or artists performing an activity on an ad hoc basis” and journalists.

In comments provided to NME music site Earlier Wednesday, UK Culture Minister Oliver Dowden said Britain had sought “a mutually beneficial deal that would have allowed artists to continue working and performing across the continent without the need for permits work ”, but“ the EU has repeatedly refused ”.

Mr Barnier also warned that Brussels would be “vigilant on all fronts” in monitoring how Britain implements the deal, which includes the right for each party to introduce tariffs if their businesses are disadvantaged by unfair way.

Noting specifically ‘the pesticide debate’ in the UK, Mr Barnier said the diverging EU and UK rules were a natural consequence of Brexit, but that ‘we have to be careful. . . otherwise, there will be consequences in terms of exporting without tariffs without quota to our market ”. He also warned that goods destined for the EU market had to meet bloc standards.

He noted that the UK had reciprocal rights under the deal to sue the EU.

While not necessarily seen in Brussels as a sign of a broader deregulation change, the UK last week granted temporary permission for the use of a pesticide suspected of being harmful to bees due to concerns about a disease attacking sugar beets.

“Pesticides are about public health, the health of farmers, farm workers and consumers,” Barnier said. “Depending on where you set the threshold in this area, it can also have an impact on competition and competitiveness.”

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