EU leaders harden stance over concessions to Britain

‘No single market a la carte’, warns Brussels after tough meeting on Brexit

British Prime Minister David Cameron and EU Council President Donald Tusk address the media ahead of the post-Brexit EU summit. Video: EU Council


Brussels has hardened its opposition to granting the UK special treatment when it begins its exit negotiations with the EU, with European Council president Donald Tusk warning there could be “no single market a la carte”.

Speaking after EU leaders held their first discussion on Brexit without a British representative present, the EU’s most senior officials warned the principle of free movement was non-negotiable.

“Those wanting access to our single market must implement the four freedoms without exceptions and without nuances,” European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said, a sentiment that was echoed by leader after leader as they left the meeting, including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The position was reflected in a joint communique issued after the gathering which stated that “access to the single market requires acceptance of all four freedoms”.

Signs that the EU will take a tough stance in forthcoming negotiations with the UK came amid suggestions from London in recent days that Britain could seek access to the single market while being granted limits on immigration.

Financial industry

In a blow to the City of London, French president François Hollande said London would no longer be able to clear euro-denominated trades, a key strand of London’s financial industry.

EU leaders reiterated on Wednesday that no informal discussions would take place with the UK before London formally notifies the EU of its intention to leave the bloc, probably in the autumn.

After the summit, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had stressed the importance of protecting the peace process and the common travel area during the meeting.

Mr Kenny said he had told the leaders about the relationship between Ireland and Britain over many centuries, including the Irish contribution to the first World War and the struggle for independence that led to the creation of the State.

‘Royal visit’

“Today relations are stronger than ever before and I recalled the first royal visit in 100 years of her majesty Queen Elizabeth and the reciprocal visit of our President to Great Britain, which was an enormous success. I think prime minister Cameron appreciated that and members around the table understand our position,” Mr Kenny said.

He also relayed a message from Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon saying that her country should not be dragged out of the EU against its will.

Ms Sturgeon was in Brussels on Wednesday for meetings with the heads of the European Commission and European Parliament in an attempt to shore up support for moves to ensure Scotland’s continued presence in the EU. But while she said she was given a “sympathetic hearing,” there were no concrete promises from officials.