Sunday 18 November 2018

You will regret Brexit, Juncker tells the UK

Jean-Claude Juncker listens intently during the Brexit debate in the European Parliament
Jean-Claude Juncker listens intently during the Brexit debate in the European Parliament

Shona Murray and Philip Ryan

The UK will come to regret its decision to leave the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker warned as he defended the "backstop" plan for the Irish Border.

European Commission President Mr Juncker said things "cannot remain as they are" for the UK in its relationship with the EU after leaving the bloc. Mr Juncker was cheered by Eurosceptic MEPs as he noted the UK's departure was due on March 29, 2019.

Responding to their applause, Mr Juncker said the time would come "when you will regret your decision". In relation to the Border, Mr Juncker also said: "The 27 member states stand firm and united when it comes to Ireland. For us this is not an Irish issue, it is a European issue."

Speaking in Washington, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "Ironically, if there is a hard Brexit, they are more likely to regret it than a soft Brexit for want of a better term... my overriding objective is Irish concerns and making sure that we maintain the common travel area and everything that comes with that, that people can continue to study and travel between the UK and Ireland, to avoid a hard Border and that we have free trade and enterprise.

"If we can negotiate that then things won't be as different as they are today."

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage claimed the commission was seeking to "bully" the UK and suggested British PM Theresa May should back a departure from the bloc without a transition deal.

Ahead of next week's European Council summit, Mr Juncker said the EU needed "more clarity on how the UK sees its future relationship".

Mr Juncker said "cherry-picking is not going to be possible" in the future trade relationship between the UK and EU.

He added that the controversial "backstop" proposal for dealing with the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic "translates faithfully" the agreement reached between Mrs May and the EU in December.

Mr Juncker said the EU was ready to work with the UK on its preferred option of the Border issue being resolved in the future trade deal, or by other specific measures.

But he added: "We need to receive concrete proposals from the UK first."

Brussels' chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Mrs May's decision to leave the single market and customs union was "closing doors" to possible models of future co-operation.

Mr Barnier added that it was a "rather surprising idea" to think the EU could accept convergence in some areas "and at the same time open up the possibility for divergence when there is a comparative advantage to be had" for the UK.

Meanwhile, the EU is planning targeted changes to how digital multinationals are taxed.

Proposals due to be released next Wednesday are designed to ensure digital companies will pay tax on all revenue generated. The tax changes are specifically aimed at companies that don't have a physical presence in a particular member state, but nonetheless generate revenue there.

For example, Amazon or Airbnb generates sales in all EU member states, but Europe's current tax laws don't cater for this. The proposals will say that European tax rules were designed before multi-nationals existed.

As a result, the rules allow for an uneven playing field in terms of contrasting them to traditional 'bricks and mortar' type companies - which manufacture tangible goods, and whose revenue streams are clear.

Irish Independent

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