Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said Britain cannot “have its cake and eat it”, as the government in London distanced itself from a memo including the aim to have the best of both worlds from Brexit.
In an interview with AFP, Bettel also ruled out any transitional Brexit deal with the European Union to soften the impact of Britain’s departure if difficult negotiations are not completed in two years.
“They want to have their cake, eat it, and get a smile from the baker, but not the other things,” Bettel said on Monday evening in his office in Luxembourg.
“There are European values which cannot be separated. No cherry-picking.”
Bettel’s comments come as EU leaders step up warnings that Britain cannot expect to keep access to the single market while limiting immigration by European citizens after it leaves the bloc.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to start the two-year divorce process in March 2017 but has not set out her goals, while EU leaders have refused to negotiate until she triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
However in a glimpse of what the British strategy could be, a photographer spotted a memo in the hands of an aide to a lawmaker leaving the Department for Exiting the European Union in Downing Street on Monday which included the aim to “have cake and eat it”.
The memo also suggested Britain will fail to keep access to the European single market and will seek to keep the negotiations to two years, instead of a lengthier interim deal aimed at lessening the sudden impact of leaving the EU.
Last week, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny raised the prospect of a transitional deal as it would be “impossible” to complete negotiations within the two years, but Bettel ruled out any “hybrid” arrangement.
“What would interim mean? That we are going make a hybrid status now? Either you’re a member or you’re not a member of the European Union,” the Luxembourg prime minister said.
“We are not going to make a status of ‘a little bit member’ or ‘not completely’, ‘pending divorced’, ‘nearly divorced’.
“There is no in-between status, there is no hybrid status between the two.”