European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that “frictionless trade” with the UK is “not possible” following Brexit.
Airbus in Broughton was highlighted by Barnier as one business that benefits from freedom of movement for its employees, an Airbus company executive admitted the company was worried about the prospect of restrictions on the movement of employees .
Decision to leave the EU has consequences
Barnier was in Brussels updating the European Economic and Social Committee, an advisory group representing employers, trade unions and other interest groups on Brexit.
“Three points have already been made clear by the European Council and the European Parliament – but I am not sure whether they have been fully understood across the Channel.” Barnier said.
I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and keep all of its benefits – that is not possible.
I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and build a custom union to achieve “frictionless trade” – that is not possible.
The decision to leave the EU has consequences. And we have to explain to them, the businesses and civil society on both sides of the Channel what these consequences mean for them.
Let me be clear: these consequences are the direct result of the choices made by the UK, not by the EU. There is no punishment for Brexit. And of course no spirit of revenge.
But Brexit has a cost, also for business in the EU27.
Barnier pointed to Airbus Broughton as a business reliant on its integration with Europe and the ability of its workforce to move freely in Europe, he said;
The success of the Airbus factory in Broughton, in North Wales, is widely owing to its ability to attract qualified engineers and technicians from all over Europe.
And to the ease of the procedures for certification and for delivery to assembly sites in Hamburg or Toulouse.
Katherine Bennett, senior vice-president of Airbus, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One on Thursday the company was most worried about the prospect of restrictions on the movement of employees in high technology jobs, she said;
We will get over these barriers, we’re a very integrated company and we do have people from around the world but we have a large percentage of people who are ‘other EU’ citizens.
It’s really important that we explain to our government and of course to the European Commission about the importance of that integrated arrangement being able to continue.
Plaid Cymru’s Brexit spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP responded to Michel Barnier’s comments that the likes of Airbus will face added “constraints” after leaving the EU.
Hywel Williams MP stressed the importance of enabling key companies such as Airbus to operate freely “without pointless red tape” and accused the UK government of ignorance over how large scale manufacturers work, he said:
Protecting Welsh industry must be a priority as the UK negotiates to leave the European Union.
Airbus needs to be able to pass its products from one European site to another without pointless red tape.
The wings made in Wales can’t fly without the tail and the body of the plane made in other countries!
This is how modern large scale manufacturers work – though the government in London either does not know this or more likely does not care.
Leaving the customs union guarantees that we will get a worse deal – as is shown by Mr Barnier’s statement.
Not everything the EU says is a bargaining tactic. I fear that we will learn this to our great cost as the negotiations proceed.
Plaid Cymru will continue to put the interests of the Welsh economy first and make the case for maintaining membership of the European single market and the customs union.
Fair deal is far better than no deal
The UK’s decision to leave the Union will have important consequences said Barnier “it is my duty to say it, because I have said it from the beginning, and I will tell the truth to the citizens.”
Barnier dismissed the “no deal is better than a bad deal” slogan favoured by the British prime minister, Theresa May – “a fair deal is far better than no deal” and pointed out Brexit talks were not a classic negotiation, where “no deal” meant reversion to the status quo. “In the case of Brexit, ‘no deal’ is a return to a distant past.”
No deal would mean customs duties of almost 10% on vehicle imports. An average of 19% on alcoholic beverages, an average of 12% on lamb, and also on fish, the vast majority of which are British exports to the European Union.
British suppliers of industrial parts he said “would have to keep items in stock for a few days rather than a few hours, he said, and would spend more on transport and warehouses, because of bureaucratic hurdles.”