They were the ones who voted to leave, but according to some EU officials, the British people don’t fully understand the consequences of Brexit. Before the UK officially departs the EU, they say, someone should explain to them just what exactly could happen.
As negotiation talks grow increasingly hostile, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said Britons need to be educated of the consequences of leaving the single market. Barnier said Brexit would be “an educational process” for the British people.
“There are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn’t been explained to the British people,” he said. “We intend to teach people … what leaving the single market means.”
According to Barnier, British people don’t fully appreciate whatmeans. Under the current single market system, the EU is thought of as a single territory without any borders or obstacles, meaning that goods and services can cross borders seamlessly. The single market stimulates competition and trade while cutting prices and raising quality. If the UK leaves the single market, as is currently being proposed under the hard Brexit plan, it would likely have to negotiate new trade deals with EU and non-EU countries or be forced to pay high tariffs and import/export fees on international goods, which can put a strain on businesses both trying to send their goods to other countries and trying to import items to use in their businesses. Because the UK has been a part of the single market for so long, many Britons don’t know any different and may not understand what life would be like without the system in place.
Barnier’s comments highlight issues where some Britons are already concerned. As Brexit negotiations continue, politicians seem to be moving more towards a hard Brexit, which would take the UK out of the single market as soon as it leaves the EU. In order for trade to be successful under that plan, the UK would need to establish strong trade agreements with other countries, including the US, with whom it is already in talks. Even new free trade deals will impact businesses trying to send goods through the UK and could lead to costly transitions.
Another concern about Brexit includes the rights of workers. The UK is currently working through being able to transfer EU employee rights to its own independent country. These basic rights include things like, paid holidays, equal pay for women, and a number of other issues. These rights are currently guaranteed throughout the EU under the single market, but leaving that behind puts the workers’ rights in question. Some MPs have been reluctant to carry over some of the rights, which could have a huge effect on workplace safety, security, and the overall economy.
Predictably, UK officials didn’t like Barnier’s comments. Ridiculing Barnier, Brexit Secretary David Davis said the negotiator “looked a bit silly because there were plainly things we achieved” during the reason economic discussions.
“The [European] commission puts itself in a silly position when it says nothing has been done when really important things have,” Davis said, citing agreements reached on health insurance for overseas Brits. “We put people before process. They are in danger of putting process first.”
The comments by Barnier and Davis are the latest of a he said-she said situation between the EU and UK. The EU claims that Brexit negotiations have been slow and unsuccessful with “”, while UK officials continue to push forward and tout the successes. This is contributing to a near standstill in many areas of discussion.
In order for Brexit to truly be successful, politicians and citizens must understand what they are agreeing to and the long-term impact it could have. Whether that is currently happening is up for debate, but we likely haven’t seen the end of strong statements between the EU and UK.