The EU has warned Britain is heading for a ‘Hard Brexit’ – with a “killer graphic” claiming a bare-bones trade deal will be the automatic result of Theresa May’s plans.
The slide lays bare what Brussels thinks is the logic of the Prime Minister’s “red line” demands to be free of European courts, trade rules, migration and payments.
The graphic was presented by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to all 27 EU leaders at last week’s summit – the day after May headed back to Britain and just hours before both sides claimed a ‘breakthrough’ in talks.
The image, published online by the European Commission and tweeted by the Guardian on Tuesday morning, set out what the EU thinks is the consequence of each of May’s demands.
Starting with full EU membership on the left, it goes through each of the non-EU countries that it thinks the UK could possibly use as a template for a future relationship.
Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (all European Economic Area members) are ruled out because of ‘red lines’ ruling out the European Court of Justice, free movement of migrants, ongoing cash payments and EU trade rules.
The next country ruled out is Switzerland, (a member of Efta, the European free trade association), the next is Ukraine (which has an ‘association agreement’ with the EU), and finally Turkey (which has a form of customs union but no migration deal).
The final flags are for South Korea and Canada, both of which have signed free-trade deals with the EU in recent years.
But the graphic also depicts such basic free trade deals – which don’t include full access for services rather than goods – as not being far from a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Brussels sources pointed out that Barnier, who may set out further EU guidelines this week, showed the slide to all the 27 remaining European leaders last Friday at the summit.
Reaction to the graphic online was swift.
One blogger pointed out that the situation was more complex, as the UK’s pledge to avoid a ‘hard border’ in Northern Ireland would mean a Canada-style deal was impossible.
Others tried to have fun at the expense of Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Another joked that a ‘no deal’ option was most likely, referring to Mauritania, the only country which relies solely on World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade rules.
But Leave voters welcomed the idea that none of Brussels’ models would apply.
After its first detailed discussion on the ‘end state’ of UK-EU relations, the British Cabinet today agreed it wanted a ‘bespoke Brexit’ which doesn’t follow any of the trade models in the countries to which Barnier has referred.
And a spokesman for the Prime Minister played down Barnier’s suggestion that no such ‘bespoke’ solution was possible.
“This is the beginning of the phase two negotiations. You would expect the Commission to be setting out their position. I would imagine you will hear a lot more from them before you hear less,” the spokesman said.
A Whitehall source added to HuffPost UK that the slide was “an opening gambit, no more”.
They pointed out that Brussels had originally wanted all EU citizens to be indefinitely placed under European court jurisdiction and backed down to agree an eight year limit.
The original ‘divorce bill’ was also floated at £60bn net, and is likely to be up to £40bn instead, the source added.
But former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, now a member of the ‘Best for Britain’ campaign group of MPs, said: “This killer graphic lays bare how Theresa May’s red lines are dragging us to a hard Brexit, with all the damage to UK jobs that involves.”