Brexit Dreamers Will Meet United EU Reality Check, Finland Warns

  • Finnish Prime Minister comments on Brexit process in interview
  • Britain will need to pay for single market access, he says

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said Britain faces a united European front in resisting its efforts to find loopholes in the bloc’s sacred “four freedoms.”

Speaking in an interview at his official residence in Helsinki on Wednesday, the 55-year-old premier also suggested the U.K. should expect to have to pay for any continued access to the single market the country hopes to get once it exits the European Union. Aware that his comments are unlikely to bring much cheer to the U.K. camp, Sipila said it’s clear that Britons “were quite unprepared for the Brexit.”

Juha Sipila on Oct. 19.

Photographer: Tomi Setala/Bloomberg

The EU has been “very united” in its position, Sipila said. Since the referendum in June, EU leaders have been clear on the notion that “you have to accept all the four freedoms and this is a very important guideline for the future negotiations.’’

Britain is looking increasingly isolated in its efforts to find a path out of the EU that doesn’t imperil its economic future. Germany is making sure all channels are closed off as the EU waits for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and formally start negotiations, something she has said won’t happen until March next year. 

May on Thursday will attend her first EU leaders summit after taking office following the June 23 referendum. While May has said she wants British companies to have the “maximum opportunity” to trade and operate in the single market, she has also pledged to control immigration.

Sipila also said there could be “no side discussions” in the meantime.

Britain needs to accept that the EU won’t agree to any dilution of the four freedoms that protect the unfettered movement of people, services, goods and capital within the bloc, he said.

“We are tied to the principles that we already agreed,’’ Sipila said. The premier also suggested that any British access to the EU would come at a price. “It’s not free to have access to the single market, that’s for sure,’’ he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and others in her government have repeatedly warned that Germany won’t let Britain cherry pick from among the EU’s benefits once she triggers the exit clause and talks on a new relationship begin. After activating Article 50, the U.K. has up to two years to leave, with an extension beyond that requiring unanimous agreement between all of the bloc’s member states.

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