Theresa May’s Brexit plan was left mired in uncertainty after reports that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told British MPs that “les propositions sont mortes” in a Brussels meeting. The Labour MP Stephen Kinnock revealed that in talks this week Barnier had declared the Chequers proposals “dead” and suggested that there was a fundamental misunderstanding in the UK about how the single market worked.
“I can tell you absolutely, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt that Chequers is dead in the water. Michel Barnier made it crystal clear that Chequers is completely unacceptable to the EU,” Kinnock said.
The senior remainer urged the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, and the prime minister’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, appearing before the European scrutiny committee on Wednesday, to accept that Brussels was not simply “sabre rattling” as a negotiating tactic.
May faces a concerted campaign to “chuck Chequers” from disgruntled Tory MPs, led by the former ministers Boris Johnson and David Davis. There are also deep-rooted concerns in Brussels over her facilitated customs arrangement and common rulebook proposals.
Bill Cash, the veteran Tory Eurosceptic, told the committee that Chequersshould be “put out of its misery” as the plan satisfied “virtually no one” while the former Brexit minister David Jones asked why the government was “flogging this dead horse”.
However, Stefaan de Rynck, a senior adviser to Barnier, threw the government a lifeline when he cast doubt on Wednesday night over the claims that Brussels thought Chequers was a total non-starter, though he did not deny there were problems.
He tweeted: “Michel Barnier actually said in no uncertain terms that Chequers has positive elements, w/ reference to security & foreign policy and to an FTA as a common denominator for the economic partnership after Brexit.”
Facing the committee, Raab suggested British MPs had been “used as a pressure exercise” by Brussels as part of their negotiating tactics.