Van Rompuy: UK must accept free movement to stay in single market

The Guardian interviewed the former EU leader Herman Van Rompuy: Negotiations would be very difficult “because we have conflicting interests”, he said. He stressed that this was “nothing to do with punishment or revenge”, but the UK and the 27 other EU member states had different priorities. “The starting point for each of them is their own interests and the interests are at this stage … rather far away.”

Van Rompuy’s stance reflects the position agreed by 27 EU leaders last week, at a historic summit, where the UK had no place at the table. But other European politicians have raised hopes that compromise on free movement of people is in the offing. Alain Juppé, the frontrunner in France’s presidential elections, told the Financial Times that everything was up for negotiation.

Brussels-based insiders read Juppé’s remarks in a different way. “That doesn’t mean we compromise on basic principles,” said one senior national diplomat, adding that it would be “a mistake” for the UK to rely on talks with small groups of countries.

“It would make the position of the 27 more difficult to formulate and could lead to misunderstandings and illusions on the British side, and would prolong negative consequences,” he said.

Contrary to the claims of leave campaigners, Van Rompuy said Britain had more to lose than the EU from the breakup. “Europe is much more important to the British economy than the British economy is important to the 27,” he said.

Around 45% of British exports go to other EU countries, while the UK buys 16% of the EU27’s exported goods. [Continue reading…]

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