In response to a letter from the Brussels bureaucrat, Mr Francois insisted freeing the country from the clutches of “unelected commissioners” would be a suitable reward for the millions of voters who backed Brexit. “No one has ever demonstrated to me the added value of remaining in the EU and being governed by a bunch of unelected commissioners,” the Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford said. “It seems 17.4 million UK citizens felt similarly. As you rightly acknowledged, we are now a free country – and indeed very happy to be so.”
Mr Francois, chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptic Tory MPs, spoke out after a punchy exchange of letters with Mr Barnier.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said he respected the UK’s move to quit the bloc but couldn’t see the logic in the decision.
The Frenchman wrote: “While nobody has been able to demonstrate to me the added value of leaving the most integrated economic and free trade area in the world, I have always respected the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU.
“In this spirit, the EU negotiated the Withdrawal Agreement with your government. In this same spirit, we approach the ongoing negotiations with your great – and indeed free – country.”
But Mr Barnier refused to drop the bloc’s demands for a regulatory level-playing field and continued access to Britain’s fishing grounds as the price for any future free-trade agreement.
He claimed Boris Johnson would also have to accept a role for the European Court of Justice, as agreed as part of the Political Declaration.
“This wording elects the legal reality that the Court of Justice of the European Union must have the final word on the interpretation of EU law,” Mr Barnier wrote.
Mr Francois hit back: “The Political Declaration is indicative and not legally binding – as you well know.
“Nevertheless, I’m delighted that further talks are now agreed. As you often remind us, ‘the clock is ticking’.”
But the ERG chief insisted the bloc’s demands for “supremacy” for its Luxembourg-based courts is unacceptable for Britain.
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Meanwhile post-Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and EU yesterday broke up without any major breakthrough.
Mr Barnier warned “significant divergences” remain between Brussels and Britain on the post-Brexit trade deal.
The bloc published fresh planning preparations, warning of “inevitable disruptions” because of Mr Johnson’s refusal to sign up to EU rules and extend the transition period.