A draft document outlining Britain’s future relationship with the European Union after exiting the EU has already been dismissed as unrealistic by senior EU officials, who say the UK has no chance of changing the bloc’s founding principles.
The document, to be published on Friday, is set to propose the UK stays indefinitely in a single market for goods after Brexit.
But EU officials who have seen drafts of the long-awaited British white paper said the proposal would never be accepted.
White papers have no legal weight and do not become law themselves. Instead, they form the basis on which Parliament drafts a legislation.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is gathering ministers on Friday for a one-day discussion to resolve the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
An EU source accused the UK of wanting to “have its cake and eat it.”
The insider said, “We read the white paper and we read ‘cake’,” a reference to UK foreign minister Boris Johnson’s one-liner of being “pro having [cake] and pro-eating it.”
Since Britain’s EU referendum in 2016, “cake” has entered the Brussels lexicon to describe anything seen as an unrealistic or far-fetched demand.
May’s white paper is expected to propose that UK remains indefinitely in the EU single market after Brexit, to avoid the need for checks at the Irish border.
While the UK is offering concessions on financial services, it wants restrictions on free movement of people.
Jean-Claude Piris, a former head of the EU council’s legal service, said it would be impossible for the EU to split the “four freedoms” underpinning the bloc’s internal market, which are written into the 1957 treaty that founded the European project: free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
The right of EU citizens in Britain to continue living and working here after Brexit is one of the key sticking points in London’s negotiations with Brussels.
In February, the UK government announced a major U-turn to give EU nationals who arrive during the Brexit transition period the right to remain indefinitely in the UK.