Michel Barnier warns there is still a risk of more Brexits in the future

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James Crisp
·2 min read
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Michel Barnier urged the EU to build a bloc that no one would dream of leaving.  - AFP
Michel Barnier urged the EU to build a bloc that no one would dream of leaving. - AFP

Michel Barnier has warned that there is “always a risk” that other European countries will follow Brexit Britain and leave the EU.

The EU’s chief negotiator said there was still “anger” against Brussels in many regions of Europe.

He said that Brexit had exposed the dangers and consequences of leaving the bloc but said it was up to the EU to prove that membership of the bloc was worthwhile.

“We have to draw the lessons of Brexit. We have to understand why 52 percent of the British people voted against Europe [...] ” It is obviously too late for the UK but it is not too late for the other member states,” Mr Barnier said.

He said, “Today, in many regions, there is this anger, the same feeling against Europe, the same problem to understand what we’re doing at the European level,” he said.

“We have to be vigilant because it is always a risk for the future,” he added, “This risk can be combated by the proof that it is clearly a better situation to be inside the EU than outside.”

“Brexit has exposed the consequences of leaving the EU for all to see,” he said, ““Even though we have a deal the UK’s choices mean that there will be inevitable short-term and long-term consequences.”

He added, “Together, we can build a Europe that not only protects but also inspires. A Europe that Europeans would never dream of leaving.

“Why should we leave the EU debate to anti EU parties? For all those who believe in the European project this is not the time to sit back and to be complacent.”

Mr Barnier said he had noted British plans to diverge from EU rules such as the Working Time Directive after Brexit.

“We are not surprised because we are not naive,” Mr Barnier said. The important thing for the EU was that Britain’s new found regulatory freedom did not become “a tool for dumping against us.”

If Britain was to undercut EU standards to gain an unfair competitive advantage over European businesses, Mr Barnier said, the bloc would not hesitate to use remedial measures, which could include tariffs, in the trade deal.

“In that case we will use the tools included in the treaty,” he said.

Mr Barnier is soon to step down as the EU’s chief negotiator to become a special advisor to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

His focus will be on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and ratification of the Brexit trade deal. From March, he plans to return to French politics.

He was speaking after being named European of the Year by the European Movement Ireland.