Statement by Michel Barnier, 7 September 2017

Following publication of a number of Position Papers, which outline the position EU negotiators are taking in various topics, Michel Barnier, chief negotiator on behalf of the EU, held a press conference and made the following statement

(It is important to understand the French spoken at these conferences as there are often additional important comments made which aren’t expressed in English, and I can thank Google Translate for helping in this respect)

Brussels, 7 September 2017

Good afternoon to all of you,

I am happy to see you again after only one week. I hope it is not too much for you.

Just one word first:

J’attache beaucoup d’importance à la sincérité et à la qualité de notre dialogue avec les Etats membres, dont je suis aussi le négociateur, et avec le Parlement européen. Et donc ces quelques heures, à peine une journée dont nous avons besoin pour les informer est extrêmement importante.

Pour le reste, je connais bien ce qui se passe habituellement dans les institutions européennes à propos de ces fuites, et voilà pourquoi j’ai, depuis le début de ma mission, clairement souhaité pratiquer la transparence, qui sera générale, sous la réserve de ce que je vous ai dit au début. Et je préfère de très loin cette transparence aux fuites, de telle sorte que nous soyons, vous et moi, davantage à égalité et que vous-même, entre vous, vous soyez à égalité.

Let me come back to the point of this press conference.

Today, we published our guiding principles for the dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland. We also published four papers on issues that will need to be part of the withdrawal agreement.

Let me first focus on Ireland.

The European Council and the European Parliament have recognised the unique situation and the specific circumstances on the island of Ireland.

I see this specific situation as a special responsibility.
– First, the responsibility to preserve the peace process and the gains of the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts.
– Secondly, the responsibility to maintain the Common Travel Area.
– Thirdly, the responsibility to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

We need first to agree on political principles. Discussing technical solutions would be premature in the political context of Northern Ireland.

We are working hand in hand with the Irish government. And I want to thank the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and their teams in Dublin and also in Brussels, for their commitment.

I also want to thank the other Member States and the European Parliament for their full support. We have seen in these negotiations that Ireland’s interest is the 27’s interest – and vice versa.

The UK said that it is ready to ensure that the Common Travel Area can continue to operate while respecting Ireland’s obligations as an EU Member State, including in relation to free movement.

On the Good Friday Agreement, the UK, as co-guarantor, will also need to put solutions forward.

In particular:

– The interlocking political institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement will need to continue operating effectively.
– We need to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland while respecting Ireland’s place in the Single Market.
– North-South cooperation will need to be preserved in all policy areas.
– Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland must continue to enjoy their rights as EU citizens. It is the birth right of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish, or British, or both.
-The European Union will honour its financial commitments in favour of programmes supporting the peace process such as PEACE and INTERREG. We expect the UK to do the same as part of its financial settlement.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we are not there yet.

The solution for the border issue will need to be unique. It cannot preconfigure the future relationship between the European Union and the UK. It will require both sides to be flexible and creative.
What I see in the UK’s paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland worries me. The UK wants the EU to suspend the application of its laws, its Customs Union, and its Single Market at what will be a new external border of the EU. And the UK wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations.

This will not happen.

Creativity and flexibility cannot be at the expense of the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union. This would not be fair for Ireland and it would not be fair for the European Union.

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Sur l’Irlande comme sur les droits des citoyens et sur le règlement financier, nous avons besoin de progrès suffisants pour avancer.
On Ireland as well as on Citizens Rights and the Financial Settlement, we need sufficient progress in order to move forward.

Vous voyez dans notre papier aujourd’hui quelle est notre définition des “progrès suffisants”, quels sont les progrès politiques que nous devons accomplir en ce qui concerne l’Irlande.
You see in our paper today what our definition of “sufficient progress” is, what political progress we have to make in relation to Ireland.

Une fois cette étape franchie, nous rédigerons avec le Royaume-Uni le Traité organisant son retrait ordonné.
Once this step is over, we will draft with the United Kingdom the Treaty organizing its orderly withdrawal.

Ce Traité, au titre de l’article 50, doit être évidemment précis. Il doit créer de la sécurité juridique sur tous les sujets où le Brexit a créé et crée de l’incertitude, sur nos trois sujets prioritaires, mais aussi sur des sujets techniques que les négociations doivent clarifier dans les prochains mois.
This Treaty, under Article 50, must of course be precise. It must create legal certainty on all subjects in which Brexit created and creates uncertainty, on our three priority subjects, but also on technical subjects that the negotiations must clarify in the coming months.

Pour atteindre cette sécurité et cette précision juridique, nous publions aujourd’hui quatre papiers présentant nos positions sur les droits de propriété intellectuelle, les douanes, la protection des données échangées avant le retrait et les marchés publics.
To achieve this security and legal precision, we are today publishing four papers presenting our positions on intellectual property rights, customs, data protection exchanged before withdrawal and public procurement.

Au total, nous avons publié depuis le mois de juin 14 papiers qui couvrent les sujets du retrait ordonné du Royaume-Uni.
In total, since June 14 we have published 14 papers which cover the subjects of the orderly withdrawal from the United Kingdom.

Et je veux dire qu’il est positif, de mon point de vue, que le Royaume-Uni publie également de nouvelles positions, y compris dans les jours qui viennent. Nous allons étudier ces papiers attentivement en travaillant sur ce qui relève du retrait ordonné et en gardant pour plus tard ce qui concerne la future relation.
And I want to say that it is positive, from my point of view, that the UK is also publishing new positions, including in the days ahead. We will study these papers carefully by working on what is the orderly withdrawal and keeping for later what concerns the future relationship.

Ce qui nous importe, c’est que ces papiers soient suffisamment précis pour avancer concrètement.
What matters to us is that these papers are sufficiently precise to move forward concretely.

Mesdames et Messieurs,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Plus tôt nous constaterons des progrès suffisants, de vrais progrès, plus tôt nous commencerons à discuter parallèlement d’une éventuelle période de transition, si le Royaume-Uni la demande, et de notre future relation qui exigera un second traité.
The sooner we see sufficient progress, real progress, the sooner we will begin to discuss at the same time a possible transitional period, if requested by the United Kingdom, and our future relationship which will require a second treaty.

A travers ce second traité, nous voulons un accord ambitieux avec le Royaume-Uni, pas seulement pour faire du commerce mais aussi pour notre coopération nécessaire en matière de sécurité, de la lutte contre le terrorisme et de défense.
Through this second treaty, we want an ambitious agreement with the United Kingdom, not only for trade but also for our necessary cooperation in security, counter-terrorism and defense.

Ce second traité doit être fondé et sera construit sur un équilibre de droits et d’obligations comme l’est chacun des accords que nous avons déjà conclus avec des pays tiers.
This second treaty must be founded and built on a balance of rights and obligations, as is the case with each of the agreements we have already concluded with third countries.

Je pense par exemple à la Norvège, à l’Islande et au Liechtenstein, qui ont choisi d’être partie au marché unique, d’en accepter les règles, et qui contribuent financièrement à la cohésion européenne.
I am thinking, for example, of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which have chosen to be part of the single market, to accept its rules and to contribute financially to European cohesion.

Je pense aussi au Canada, avec lequel nous venons de négocier un accord de libre-échange très ambitieux, le CETA. Le Canada ne fait pas partie du marché intérieur. Il n’en a donc pas les opportunités ni les obligations.
I am also thinking of Canada, with whom we have just negotiated a very ambitious free trade agreement, CETA. Canada is not part of the domestic market. It does not have the opportunities or the obligations.

Chacun comprend bien qu’il n’est pas possible et qu’il ne sera pas possible pour un Etat tiers d’avoir en même temps les bénéfices du modèle norvégien et les faibles contraintes du modèle canadien.
It is well understood that it is not possible and will not be possible for a third State to have at the same time the benefits of the Norwegian model and the weak constraints of the Canadian model.

Et c’est à la lumière de ces principes, que le Royaume-Uni connait bien puisqu’il les applique depuis 44 ans, que nous attendons avec intérêt et que nous étudierons avec objectivité et, je vous le promets, de manière constructive les prochaines propositions du gouvernement britannique dont nous avons besoin pour progresser.
And it is in the light of these principles that the United Kingdom knows well since it has been applying them for 44 years, which we look forward to and that we will study with objectivity and I promise you constructively the next proposals of the British government that we need to make progress.

Merci pour votre attention
Thank you for your attention

References

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-17-3145_en.pdf (pdf)