‘We are playing with fire!’ European Union group breaks cover to admit major Brexit panic

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The EU’s advisory body The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) warned the Brussels bloc it faces a “massive rate of unemployment” amid Brexit negotiations with Britain. Giulia Barbucci vice-president of the EESC: “The EU risks a massive rate of unemployment; regarding Brexit, we are playing with fire.

“We need the EU multi-year budget now or there is a risk of mass unemployment.

“Austerity has not guaranteed growth, we must think of a new development model.”

He also launched an attack on the UK over Brexit, saying the situation was “serious” and warned of “heavy repercussions”.

Mr Barbucci said: “I feel like saying that unfortunately, people are still playing with fire.

“The situation in the UK is serious from all points of view, especially economically.

“A head of government cannot unilaterally decide not to honour the international agreements previously made, with heavy repercussions on his country and on relations with the European Union.”

British and EU negotiators are under pressure to find a compromise on the most persistent sticking points in their talks to protect a trillion dollars worth of annual trade from possible tariffs and quotas in eight weeks’ time when the UK’s transition out of the bloc ends.

The tortured negotiations resume in London on Sunday as the mid-November deadline nears for a new trade pact between Britain and the 27-nation EU, which then needs time for the European Parliament’s approval necessary to implement any deal from 2021.

But sticking points remain.

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The so-called level-playing field is about fixing minimum labour, environment and social production standards, as well as corporate subsidies or state aid so that firms from one side cannot sell substandard goods on the other one’s market.

The EU wants to lock Britain as closely as possible into its own regulations, but London rejects that because the ability to shape the UK’s own laws independently was one of Brexit’s chief promises.

Specifically, the two sides are at odds over the ‘nn-regression clause’, a provision that would not allow either to backpedal on a certain minimum level of standards once they reached them independently.

The EU says such a clause is needed to safeguard its market of 450 million consumers from any cheap, poor-quality goods coming from the UK should it chose to use its regulatory freedom to gain a competitive edge.

The British government says it will maintain the highest standards but argues it should be offered similar terms to those the EU offered Canada in their trade deal.

Divvying up fishing rights – a totemic issue for both Brexit Britain and France – is proving a stubborn issue.


London insists on annual catch negotiations under the principle of “zonal attachment” but the EU demands a longer-term perspective for its fishing industry and more specific numerical targets for some 100 species under discussions.

Britain also wants a separate agreement on fisheries, while the EU insists it must be part of any wider free trade deal.

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