by Stephanie Boyd
Regardless of how British citizens voted in the hugely divisive EU membership referendum of 2016 – which has since been referred to as Brexit in the mass media – it’s safe to say that no one truly had a firm grip on how the UK’s exit from the European Union would come to pass. The manoeuvre is completely new – and for Britain, it means untangling a web of legislation and guidelines which promises to be a fairly mammoth task. Not only that – but there’s the heated matter of trying to thrash out a deal with the EU which actively protects a number of interests on both sides. If British Prime Minister Theresa May’s now infamous ‘Chequers Deal’ is anything to go by, it appears that both several ministers from her own party, as well as those spearheading the EU’s interests, may be keen to head into ‘no deal’ territory.
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has vocally opposed a number of requests put forward by British ambassadors during the discussion process, and he has recently confirmed more strongly than ever that he feels May’s Chequers Plan would spell an end to the EU altogether. “The British have a choice – they could stay in the single market, like Norway, which is also not a member of the EU,” Barnier advised press in recent days. “But they would have to take over all the associated rules and contributions to European solidarity.”
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“If we let the British pick the raisins out of our rules, that would have serious consequences,” he continued. “Then all sorts of other third countries could insist that we offer them the same benefits. That would be the end of the single market and the European project.”
Barnier’s words are very strong indeed – however, the EU’s position is clear. Several MPs from May’s own party have opposed her proposals for a new trade rulebook, which means the UK could be heading into a strange new wilderness from March 2019 onwards – a no deal situation. With some media outlets suggesting that certain stockpiling may occur in the event of a deal-free scenario, it’s hard to say quite how things will turn out – but the UK leaving the EU without a firm agreement of some sort is no longer a distant concern, but is now a distinct possibility. Where will things stand in six months’ time?
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