Barnier has been the face of Brussels’ uncompromising approach to the British government since the U.K. voted to leave the EU and he has declined to comment on negotiating positions other than to say that the interests of the remaining 27 member countries are a priority.
However, he reportedly warned MEPs during a private meeting this week that “very specific work has to be done” in order to guarantee access to the City of London once the U.K. leaves the EU.
“There will be a special/specific relationship. There will need to be work outside of the negotiation box … in order to avoid financial instability,” he said, according to unpublished minutes of the meeting seen by the Guardian.
Banks and trading houses in the City of London are able to provide financial services to clients across the EU using so-called “passporting rights,” which are likely to disappear post-Brexit.
London is Europe’s principal financial center and many European governments fear they will struggle to raise funds if they lose access to it.
The minutes also show that Barnier called the Brexit negotiations “unique and extraordinary” and underlined that there would be “no aggressiveness, no revenge, no punishment” — but neither any naivety.
In a report published Thursday the City of London’s main lobbying group appeared to have given up on the hope of maintaining full access to the EU’s single market after Brexit.
TheCityUK called for a transitional agreement between London and Brussels and it will no longer push to retain passporting rights.