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Barnier: EU-UK relations may be based on free trade deal

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Prague, April 12 (CTK) – The future relations between the European Union and Britain may be based on a free trade agreement, the EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told journalists after meeting Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Prague on Thursday.

This would mean certain limitations compared to the current situation, given the British demands, Barnier said.

He said the only model which included checks but not limits is the case of Norway, which is a member of the common market and the customs union.

But Britain has a different demand because the British do not want to fall under the Court of Justice of the European Union, they do not want the four freedoms, they do not want to contribute to the EU budget, Barnier said.

As a result, the only logical result of this situation is an EU-Britain free trade deal, within which limited movement of people and a duty-free regime may be agreed on, but even this would imply checks of people and goods at the borders, Barnier said.

Babis said the Czech government is satisfied with the negotiating of Barnier’s team. “All Czech interests have been taken into account,” he said.

He recalled that Prague wanted the current level of rights of the about 50,000 Czech citizens living in Britain to be retained after Brexit in 2019.

Babis said it is important that trade relations between the Czech Republic and Britain are maintained in future. “Britain is an exports market for us,” he said, adding that exports to Britain are especially important for Czech car makers.

Barnier said three fourths of the EU-Britain divorce deal have been negotiated so far. The main open issues are the future border regime between Ireland and Northern Ireland and the question of what body would decide on the disputes over the interpretation of the Brexit deal.

Barnier also had talks with Czech Industry and Trade Minister Tomas Huner on Thursday.

Barnier said Czech companies need to use the time before March 2019 to thoroughly prepare themselves for the possible barriers that will arise in connection with Brexit.

Huner said his priority is that the barriers on the goods and services market are not insurmountable and do not drive Czech companies away from Britain.

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