The European Union’s chief negotiator said the UK should not be allowed to act as an easy route into the bloc’s single market and should have its “prominent position” removed after the transition period expires at the end of the year. The Frenchman also suggested goods should no longer be tested in Britain to ensure they reach EU standards. “We cannot accept the UK’s attempts to cherry pick parts of our single market,” he told European trade unionist representatives.
“During its 47 years of membership, the UK built up a strong position in the EU market in a number of strategic areas – financial services, businesses and legal services, and also a regulation and certification hub as a major entry point in the EU single market.
“In great part this was made possible because the the UK was an EU member state within the single market.
“As it prepares to leave the single market and to leave the customs union we must really ask ourselves whether it is in the EU’s interest for the UK to retain such a prominent position.”
Banning Britain from hosting its own market for testing goods would mean firms would have to ship their products to the EU for evaluation before they are considered an acceptable export to the bloc.
The industry is big business for the UK, with the country controlling 20 percent of the entire market share.
Mr Barnier also warned against allowing the UK to become an assembly hub for companies hoping to take advantage of the planned tariff and quota-free trade deal negotiators are working on.
He suggested firms could manufacture products sourced from across the world before exporting them to the EU without paying import taxes.
“Do we really want to take a risk with rules of origin, that would allow the UK to become a manufacturing hub for the EU,” Mr Barnier said.
He added: “Do we really want the UK to remain a centre for commercial litigation for the EU when we could attract these services here?”
Brussels negotiators have rejected British attempts to secure so-called mutual recognition for third party conformity assessments.
These would allow UK-based testers to certify cars, chemicals, marine equipment, organic and pharmaceutical products for sale on the EU’s market.
Mr Barnier said: “Do we really want to consolidate the UK position as a certification hub for the EU, knowing that it already controls some 15 to 20 percent of the EU certification market.”
The Frenchman accused British negotiators of asking for more than what was precedented in the EU’s trade deals with other countries.
“The truth is that, in many areas, it is demanding a lot more than Canada, Japan, or any of our other FTA partners,” he blast.
After the post-Brexit transition period, UK financial services will lose their EU passport rights and be forced to rely on equivalence for their market access to Europe.
Under the scheme, the European Commission decides whether a country’s regulations are deemed robust, and can later withdraw the decision with as little as 30 days’ notice.
Downing Street hit back, insisting UK officials are only asking the bloc for a simple free-trade agreement.
“We are not asking for a special, bespoke, or unique deal,” a Government spokesman said.
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“We are looking for a deal like those the EU has previously struck with other friendly countries like Canada.
“We‘ve been clear that we do not seek to remain part of the single market or customs union, as we do not believe this is in the UK’s interest.
“Our legal texts draw on precedent where relevant precedent exists, and we have made pragmatic proposals where it does not, for example on road transport or energy cooperation.”