The EU's top Brexit negotiator has told Britain that "frictionless trade" will be impossible once the country breaks with Brussels.
Michel Barnier gave the warning in a speech to the European Economic and Social Committee, just 10 days before the next round of negotiations with the UK.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested that no deal will be better than a bad deal, suggesting Britain will be prepared to walk away without an agreement. But Barnier said this was simply not an option.
“I want to be very clear on this,” he was quoted by Politico as saying. “‘In the case of Brexit, ‘no deal’ is a return to a distant past.”
By this, he meant a return to World Trade Organisation tariff defaults, which would bring “customs duties of almost 10 percent on vehicle imports, an average of 19 percent for alcoholic beverages, and an average of 12 percent on lamb and fish, for which the vast majority of British exports go to the EU.”
Barnier said that, while Brussels has made clear its essential conditions for the talks, "I am not sure whether they have been fully understood across the Channel.”
He added: “I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and keep all of its benefits — that is not possible. I have heard some people in the U.K. argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve ‘frictionless trade’ — that is not possible.”