Jeremy Corbyn to meet Michel Barnier next week to talk Brexit

Michel Barnier and Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Barnier chose a business audience that includes employers and trade union representative groups, to say that "only the combination of the internal market and the customs union guarantees the free movement of goods".

Britain and the European Union began the formal Brexit talks last month based on Barnier's timetable of dealing first with the rights of more than three million European Union citizens in Britain, and more than one million Britons living in Europe.

It will be the first meeting between Labour leader and the EU's Brexit negotiator.

Mr Corbyn said his party, which wants to protect the rights of EU citizens in Britain and maintain European-levels of consumer and environmental protections, is building on its links with other socialist parties across Europe as it tries to build a constructive relationship for after Brexit.

Barnier said: "I have heard some people in the United Kingdom argue that one can leave the single market and keep all of its benefits".

Avoiding such a scenario requires a "climate of trust" in which the two sides strike deals to protect citizens' rights, settle the U.K.'s financial relationship with the United Kingdom and design a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, he said. He goes on to try to kill off the chatter about setting up "a customs union" (a bespoke arrangement like Turkey has with the EU) emphasising that such a set-up keeps customs controls and other checks in place as is far from the "frictionless" trade talked about by United Kingdom ministers.

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He pointed out that access to the internal market without the customs union, as happens in the European Economic Area, still requires EEA members Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein to comply with a system of procedures and customs controls; similarly, Turkey's customs agreement with the EU, without access to the internal market, has an implied system of procedures and customs controls as well.

Echoing German chancellor Angela Merkel, the European Union negotiator stressed that the "most important" issue for the European Union is not Brexit but "the future of Europe".

But by leaving the EU, he added, the United Kingdom will "move to the other side of the external border that delineates not only the customs union but also the area in which the rules of the internal market are adopted".

He also insisted that his job was to "limit the cost of Brexit for the 27 as much as possible".

Barnier also dismissed the "no deal is better than a bad deal" slogan favoured by the British prime minister, Theresa May. "And the United Kingdom would have more to lose than its partners", the French former commissioner, said.

Mr Barnier said time was tight to reach a deal by the end of March 2019 deadline under Article 50, remarking that "time flies".

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