PARIS (AFP) – The Brexit terms that Britain agreed to before formally exiting the European Union (EU) “must be respected”, Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday, after reports that London might seek legislation to override key parts of the deal.
“Everything that has been signed must be respected,” Barnier told France Inter radio, in response to a Financial Times (FT) report claiming British Premier Boris Johnson wanted to revise agreements on Northern Ireland and state aid.
Barnier said he would discuss the report with his British counterpart David Frost during an eighth round of negotiations on a future trade deal this week.
“The important thing for me is what the prime minister says and does, and what the British government itself says and does,” he said.
Regarding Northern Ireland, Barnier insisted that under the withdrawal deal it will continue to apply the EU’s single market rules, intended to avoid a “hard border” with Ireland but which would effectively create a trade border in the Irish Sea.
The move is meant to avoid reviving sectarian tensions between Ireland and Northern Ireland that were largely calmed by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
“No land border is the pre-requisite for peace since the end of the conflict… and it’s the pre-requisite for a united and coherent economy for the entire island, and also to respect the single market,” Barnier said.
Johnson said on Sunday that a trade deal with the EU must be reached by October 15, in order for it to be in force by the end of this year. “If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us,” he said.
Britain formally left the 27-member bloc on January 31, but remains bound by EU rules while it tries to thrash out new terms of its ties.