Michel Barnier says Theresa May's Brexit plans could be illegal under EU law

Thomas Colson
Michel Barnier

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  • Michel Barnier says UK plans for a "customs partnership" with EU could be illegal under European law.
  • "How could the EU delegate the application of EU tariffs to a country that is no longer a member state, that is no longer subject to our rules of governance? Is it legally feasible?" he told a press conference.
  • He also raised several practical problems with the plan, including the "major risk of fraud," and significant financial and administrative costs for businesses.


LONDON — The EU's chief Brexit negotiator has suggested Theresa May's post-Brexit plan for customs arrangements could be illegal under EU law, warning that they could lead to "a major risk of fraud."

Speaking on Friday, Michel Barnier said Theresa May's plan for a post-Brexit customs partnership— which would see the UK collecting tariffs on the EU's behalf — raised the "fundamental question" of whether they were workable under European law.

"Such a complex system would ... raise a much more fundamental question: How could the EU delegate the application of EU tariffs to a country that is no longer a member state, that is no longer subject to our rules of governance? Is it legally feasible?" he told a press conference.

He also raised several practical problems with the plan, including the "major risk of fraud," and significant financial and administrative costs for businesses under the new dual system, and suggesting the UK operating lower tariffs than the EU could hand them a competitive advantage which damaged the EU 27 countries financially.

Barnier 's damning words followed a first meeting with the UK's new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, which he said had been a "very useful and very cordial meeting."

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