EU officials have already dismissed the latest plan of Theresa May as unrealistic, stressing that the UK has no chance to changing the bloc’s founding principles. Ms. May is still discussing the future relationship with her cabinet but it is being rumored that the white paper would never get accepted by Brussels. “We read the white paper and we read ‘cake’,” an EU official commented referring to Boris Johnson’s one-liner of being “pro having [cake] and pro-eating it”. Since the Brexit referendum, ‘cake’ has been the word to describe anything unrealistic or far-fetched.
Ms. May’s white paper is thought to suggest that the UK should remain indefinitely in a single market for goods after the divorce, which will remove the need for checks at the Irish border. While London is proposing concessions on financial services, it wants to see restrictions on free movement of people – a key tenant for Brussels and an absolute no-go. According to Jean-Claude Piris, a former head of the EU council’s legal service, it would not be possible for the EU to split the “four freedoms” underpinning the bloc’s internal market: free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
“The EU is in difficulties at the moment; the one and only success, which glues all these countries together, is a little bit the money and the internal market,” Mr. Piris said. “If you fudge the internal market by allowing a third state to choose what they want … it is the beginning of the end.” The British government is overall of the opinion that the EU is cherry-picking, for example, by demanding the status quo on fishing quotas in exchange for no tariffs on goods. Moreover, London overall believes that a single market in industrial goods is overall a win for the EU.