The European Union has seemed to equivocate on its threatened sanctions against the United Kingdom in the event that it considers Britain to be in violation of a transitional deal when it leaves the EU in 2019.
European diplomats have rushed to deny that threatened sanctions against Britain have been taken off the table in anonymous comments relayed to The Guardian Newspaper, despite reports from the BBC February 15 that such plans had been abandoned. The so-called “Punishment Clauses” had reportedly been removed at the insistence of other EU member states.
The momentary lack of clarity has come as Britain and the EU prepare to undertake the most fraught stage of their divorce talks, the negotiation of a post-Brexit trading arrangement.
The previous day, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivered an impassioned speech pleading for the country to unite behind Brexit, in particular behind the version envisioned by his fellow “Hard Brexiteers” in which Britain leaves the EU Single Market and the Customs Union, enabling it to pursue independent trade agreements around the world
On February 10 a leaked Brussels memo suggested that the European Union intended to sanction Britain during the transition period, taking such measures as limiting the its access to the Single Market and turning away Europe-bound flights originating from the UK.
The revelations led to a diplomatic spat between Brexit Secretary David Davis and the Chief European negotiator Michel Barnier and prompted a letter from Mr. Davis to leaders of the British business community, warning them that, as a result, a transitional deal with Europe was “not a given.”
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