If it wants access to the bloc’s single market, post-Brexit Britain must accept EU freedom of movement rules and the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, EU diplomats have warned ahead of a vital summit.
The idea that Britain could have access under a European Economic Area style deal and impose border controls was a non-starter, diplomats said.
Diplomats agreed that the UK would only be able to access the market of currently about 500 million people if it accepted the authority of competition regulators, the monitoring of the European Commission and the authority of the European Court of Justice.
“One must understand that acceding to and participating in the single market is not possible without the rules. If you want to benefit from the single market that is it. You have to accept the supremacy of community law,” a diplomat said.
Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, who is the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next UK Prime Minister, has suggested that the UK could have access to the single market while introducing an Australian-style immigration system.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it,” said one diplomat.
The status of the European Court of Justice as the highest EU court was also a sore point in the referendum debate.
Diplomats admitted that it would be difficult for the UK to accept its supremacy after so much talk of sovereignty.
EU leaders meet in Brussels on Tuesday (28 June) to thrash out the next steps that will take the UK out of the bloc. On Wednesday, all of them, except Britain, will meet to discuss what to do next.
Non-UK diplomats are united in saying that there will be no discussion of the UK’s future status, until Article 50, the legal process to take Britain out of the EU, is triggered by the British.
“Until Article 50 is activated there will be no formal or informal negotiations. The range of possibilities for the UK’s future status are large, it could be the status of North Korea or that of Turkey,” said one senior diplomat.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and European Council President Donald Tusk have all demanded Cameron trigger Article 50 “as soon as possible”.
In London on Monday (27 June) Cameron told MPs that the decision to trigger Article 50 was “sovereign”, and a decision for the British alone to make.
Diplomats admitted they had accepted that Cameron would not kick-start the process on Tuesday, especially as he resigned in the wake of the vote that sparked a constitutional and political crisis.
“No one in Brussels thinks Cameron is coming with activation in his head. He has no authority. There is a lack of authority to launch the procedure,” a diplomat said.
EU officials are happy for Britain to have a number of months to prepare a stable government but there has to be a clear timetable.
— Jorge Valero (@europressos) June 27, 2016
“It’s an inconvenience to have these referendums and sometimes the outcome is not to our taste,” one diplomat said.
“But ban referendums because Brexit did not go our way? Come on. That would be ludicrous.”
Pressure was growing on Juncker to step down this week.
“From what we can already tell the Commission has responsibility in the Brexit. It would be difficult to argue about that,” a diplomat said.