What could former EU negotiator Michel Barnier reveal in his 'secret diary of Brexit' this autumn?

Wed 5 May 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit talks

The much-anticipated diaries of the EU’s former chief negotiator Michel Barnier are being published in France this week, though some national media outlets have already published excerpts in advance.

While Barnier has revealed that British readers will have to wait until October for the translation of ‘The Grand Illusion: A Secret Diary of Brexit’, the French politician has been promoting its release in his home country.

Here the IOE&IT Daily Update has a look at what’s been revealed from the memoirs so far…

1: Lancaster House speech

Theresa May’s 2017 Lancaster House speech left Barnier “stupefied” as the then Prime Minister “revealed her cards … before we had even started negotiating,” Jon Henley reports in the Guardian.

In the speech May said she would end the jurisdiction of the European court of justice in the UK, halt the freedom of movement, leave the single market and customs union, and end EU budget payments.

Barnier reportedly asked himself at the time, “Have the consequences of these decisions been thought through, measured, discussed? Does she realise this rules out almost all forms of cooperation we have with our partners?”

2: Global Britain

The UK could have achieved its aims of becoming a more globally oriented trading nation as a member of the EU, Barnier argues.

“I do wonder what, until now, has prevented the UK from becoming ‘Global Britain’, other than its own lack of competitiveness,” Barnier writes. “Germany has become ‘Global Germany’ while being firmly inside the EU and the eurozone.”

3: ‘Real incomprehension’

The New European reports that when one of Barnier’s team explained to Boris Johnson the need for customs and quality checks on the Irish border, it was Barnier’s impression that the Prime Minister “became aware, in that discussion, of a series of technical and legal issues that had not been so clearly explained to him by his own team”.

Up until May 2020, the UK was demanding “a simple Canada-type trade deal” while retaining single market advantages “in innumerable sectors”, he said.

There remains “real incomprehension, in Britain, of the objective, sometimes mechanical consequences of its choices”, he writes.

4: EU can learn from UK

The UK’s approaching to purchasing and administering Covid-19 vaccinations is something the EU can learn from, Sky News reports.

Barnier admits “an almost-ideological mistrust of private-public partnerships” in the EU, which slowed the process while “the British took risks by financing the private sector”.

“We don’t know how to do this,” he adds.

5: It’s not finished

While Barnier says he was pleased Britain had left with a functioning deal rather than without one, the bloc must now be vigilant.

British “provocations” over the Northern Irish Protocol will continue, he warns, while the UK government, “in an attempt to erase the consequences of the Brexit it provoked, will try to re-enter through the windows the single market whose door it slammed shut.”

“We must be alert to new forms of cherry picking,” he adds.