U.K.’s Special Treatment Inside the EU Is Over, EPP’s Weber Says

  • EU27 united that there will be ‘no split’ from four freedoms
  • Weber says EU citizens’ interests prevail over City of London

The time for granting the U.K. exemptions from European Union rules is over and the other 27 members are united in their view that single-market access requires freedom of movement, according to the head of the European Parliament’s conservative bloc.

QuickTake Brexit

In the runup to Brexit talks, the legislature agrees there should be “no split” from the EU’s four freedoms, covering the movement of citizens, capital, goods and services, according to Manfred Weber, a German lawmaker who leads the European People’s Party, parliament’s biggest group. He called the principles the bloc’s “DNA,” saying they must be upheld to deter other countries from seeking to quit.

The U.K. “had special treatment in Schengen, with the currency and so on, and payments and the budget, so we respected this because they were our ally,” Weber said Thursday in an interview in Bucharest. “But now it’s over, they decided to leave.”

The government in London is facing the increasing likelihood that any immigration curbs it demands as part of its departure from the EU will result in reduced access to its biggest export market. EU nations awaiting Prime Minister Theresa May’s signal to begin formal exit talks are refusing to bend on the link between immigration and trade, paving the way for a so-called “hard Brexit.”

While the U.K. has weathered the immediate aftermath of June’s Brexit referendum, giving up single-market access would present “a huge economic problem,” according to Weber. He stoked concern that London’s status as a finance hub is at risk from the potential loss of passporting rights enabling firms to sell financial products throughout the EU from one member nation.

“I have to say very clearly that when we start negotiations, we’re defending the interests of 450 million citizens and not anymore the interests of the City of London,” Weber said. “That’s a clear message and the U.K. has to face it.”

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