It's said that the UK's Chequers proposal is "dead in the water". Different questions here have dealt with UK politicians supporting or opposing the proposal, but I'm interested in the EU's perspective.

What issue does the EU take with the proposal, either explicitly (e.g. statements by EU officials naming a specific issue with the proposal) or implicitly (e.g. EU requirements on a final deal, 'EU red lines', which statements in the Chequers proposal do not meet)?

Most of the statements I could find are nonspecific. Some examples (emphasis is mine):

President Macron of France:

It was a good and brave step by the prime minister. But we all agreed on this today, the proposals in their current state are not acceptable, especially on the economic side of it. The Chequers plan cannot be take it or leave it

EU Council president Tusk:

It must be clear that there are some issues where we are not ready to compromise and first of all this is our fundamental freedoms and single market and this is why we remain sceptical and critical when it comes to this part of the Chequers proposals

Dutch PM Rutte:

I’m still optimistic we can come to a joint position later this year and the Chequers proposal in itself is helpful but its [sic] not the outcome.


3 Answers 3


The EU fundamentally cannot accept the trade portions of the Chequers proposal which in short propose Single Market access for goods from the UK, without requiring the UK to accept freedom of movement. Equally allowing the UK to negotiate separate trade deals outside the EU's tariff and quota system, but then ship goods from the UK to the EU without customs would undermine the EU's trade borders.

The Independent has the best summary of all the times the EU has said this is not acceptable, with similar "why" reasons each time.

  • 7
    That seems rather extreme. I mean, is the Chequers proposal so "brazen", as to propose getting (almost) all of the benefit and take on almost none of the responsibilities? Or am I misreading your answer?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 11:46
  • 33
    You haven't missed anything. That really is the gist of most proposals and plans from the UK leadership, and largely what the exit was sold on - "we'll get all these benefits and positive changes but we won't have to face any costs and won't have any negative changes". @einpoklum
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 12:24
  • 7
    @Nij: I can understand how that could have been propaganda for before the referendum, but what made them think of proposing that to the EU with a straight face?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 12:36
  • 20
    @Caleth at this late stage it's getting harder to believe it is a negotiating position rather than simply being a complete misjudgment of the situation. According to the original timetable for negotiation, a deal should have been signed last month. This makes it feel just a tad late for the UK position to still be asking for everything.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 12:58
  • 6
    @Trilarion while that's true, accepting Chequers as is would mean there's essentially no border between any of the UK and the EU, which would include the Eire/NI border automatically. So Eire/NI is a problem after rejecting Chequers, not a reason to reject it.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 15:11

There are basically two issues.

Firstly the single market includes the Four Freedoms: freedom of movement of goods, services, money and labour (people). The UK wants access to the single market with only three of those freedoms (no freedom of movement of labour). That would damage the integrity of the single market and has always been unacceptable to the EU right from the very start.

The second issue is that the UK is trying for a power grab. Currently it is a nominal 1/28th say in EU affairs, although of course there is also a veto and it has a lot of soft power. The UK now proposes to have an arbitration system with the EU to resolve disputes over issues with the single market and customs union, and to have a "seat at the table". This would give it much greater influence than it has now, and force all EU decisions about the SM/CU to effectively be reviewed by the UK and subject to challenge. This is, of course, unacceptable too.


The Centre for European Reform also published an article on the Chequers proposal. They wrote the following on governance:

The Commission worries even more about the UK’s proposals on governance. The white paper says the UK will “pay due regard to ECJ case law” for areas covered by the common rulebook, and that Parliament will normally update the rules as they change. But the Commission wants a more overt role for the ECJ and some involvement for itself in enforcement. It wants more automatic procedures for the UK to adopt additions to the rulebook. It does not like the British proposal for independent arbitration panels that would bind EU decision-making in certain areas. The white paper suggests that the EU should be able to fine the UK or suspend part of the agreement if it refuses to update a rule, but the EU regards that as insufficient to deter the British from deviating.

The BBC has an article about that 'common rulebook' in which they write the following about resolving disputes. Given the previous quote, this doesn't seem acceptable for the EU.

The UK wants to set up a joint committee and independent arbitration in the event of a dispute over the rulebook.

Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom says the dispute mechanism would be "equally presided over by UK courts and the European Court of Justice".

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