The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said he is “strongly opposed” to key parts of Theresa May’s proposals for a post-withdrawal trade deal.
In a fresh blow to the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan, which triggered senior Cabinet resignations and faces growing opposition from hardline Tory Brexiteers, Mr Barnier said a suggested “common rulebook” for goods would kill the European project.
He told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “We have a coherent market for goods, services, capital and people – our own ecosystem that has grown over decades. You cannot play with it by picking pieces.
“There is another reason why I strongly oppose the British proposal. There are services in every product. In your mobile phone, for example, it is 20 to 40% of the total value.”
Mr Barnier also told EU car manufacturers they would have to use fewer British parts after Brexit in order to keep to tariff export rules.
The tough comments came as former Brexit secretary David Davis branded the Chequers blueprint as being “actually almost worse than being in” the EU.
Mr Davis poured scorn on Mrs May’s claim that she would not be “pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest” as that risked becoming an “an incredible open sesame to all”.
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “In my view, the Chequers proposal … is actually almost worse than being in.
“We will be under the rule of the EU with respect to all of our manufactured goods and agri-foods, that’s a really serious concession, what about take back control, it doesn’t work?
“That actually leaves us in a position where they dictate our future rules without us having a say at all, so it’s a worse deal.”
In another sign of Cabinet tensions, International Development Secretary Liam Fox took a swipe at the Treasury over gloomy predictions on the consequences of a no-deal scenario.
Dr Fox told the BBC: “Can you think back in all your time in politics where the Treasury have made predictions that were correct 15 years out, I can’t, they didn’t predict the financial crisis that happened, no-one could.
“So this idea that we can predict what our borrowing would be 15 years in advance is just a bit hard to swallow.
“To say what a GDP figure would be 15 years ahead is not a predictive power that I’ve known the Treasury to have in my time in politics … I don’t believe it is possible to have a 15-year time horizon on predictions on GDP.”
He added: “There’s a lot of talk about the leadership of the Conservative Party, changing the leader doesn’t change the parliamentary arithmetic.”
The comments followed reports that election strategist Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded Boris Johnson’s successful London mayor campaigns, is manoeuvring to derail the PM’s EU withdrawal agenda with a co-ordinated national campaign.
Referring to EU trade rules, Mr Barnier said: “Outside of the internal market and the customs union, this involves customs formalities and controls that hinder ‘just in time’ production.
“In order for EU carmakers to benefit from the tariff benefits of the EU-Korea agreement, only a certain proportion of the services may be provided in a car in a third country.
“Businesses have to be careful not to use too many parts from Britain in their vehicles in the future.”
He added: “By the way, the British have a choice. They could stay in the single market, like Norway, which is also not a member of the EU – but they would then have to take over all the associated rules and contributions to European solidarity. It is their choice.
“But if we let the British pick the raisins out of our rules, that would have serious consequences. Then all sorts of other third countries could insist that we offer them the same benefits. That would be the end of the single market and the European project.”
Responding to Mr Barnier’s remarks, a Government spokeswoman said: “We are confident that we have put forward a proposal that is precise, pragmatic and that will work for the UK and the EU.
“This proposal achieves a new balance of rights and obligations that fulfils our joint ambition to establish a deep and special partnership once the UK has left the EU while preserving the constitutional integrity of the UK. There is no other proposal that does that.
“Our negotiating teams have upped the intensity, and we continue to move at pace to reach – as Mr Barnier says – an ambitious partnership, which will work in the mutual interests of citizens and businesses in the UK and in the EU.”