Barnier's new demands to try and tie the UK to the EU's taxation policies illustrates a test for the UK government. It is also a game that Barnier is playing to ensure Brexit in name only (BRINO) and something the UK government must resist.
We have entered the last leg of talks between the UK and the EU concerning a trade agreement. According to press reports, David Davis believes that the deal is 90% done and his department has sent 100s of civil servants to Brussels in order to close the deal before the October deadline.
Although there are worries over whether the civil servants will see Theresa May's Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, as the boss instead of Davis, the DExEU department may have more worries to contend with from the other side of the negotiation table.
Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, has told the EU's press core that he wants a 'non-regression clause' that would tie the UK to adopting EU red tape and taxation policies. The move could even lead to the UK being compelled to follow new EU tax standards after March 2019, throughout the so-called 'transition period' (the delaying period) and beyond.
This new demand is completely unacceptable and Barnier knows it. The fact is the demand is incompatible with both the Brexit vote and the government's demands for UK parliamentary control on legislation after Brexit. However, Barnier is playing a game: one that tries to have the UK remain as close to the EU as possible.
It is undeniable that the EU 'won' in the negotiations regarding the delaying period. It won on fishing, on payments, on the fact that the UK will remain tied to the EU's so-called Single Market and Customs Union until the end of 2020. The main piece of good news on the UK's side is that we can negotiate deals with other countries (though they will only come into effect after the delaying period has ended).
But this is the point: although Barnier has claimed that neither he nor the EU believes the UK will change its mind on Single Market and Customs Union membership, he says that it will have the right to do so from now until the end of the delaying period. If the UK 'changes its mind' and adopted the Norway Option (a situation that remainers called 'Fax Democracy' in the lead up to the Brexit vote), it would ensure that the UK didn't just take onboard EU tax policies but that we would be taking 'dictation' on rules (as former Prime Minister David Cameron mentioned) from the EU.
The British people do not want to be rule-takers from the EU; we want to be rule-makers for ourselves. That is one of the key reasons why we voted Leave. Notwithstanding that, for political reasons the government - David Davis in particular - wants a fully agreed trade deal by October 2018 and signed off by March 2019.
This is, however, not the EU's plan. The EU wants agreement on a resolution of 'high principles' - often called a 'memorandum of understanding' - between the UK and the EU, and negotiate the detail throughout the delaying period after March 2019. As such, Barnier is going to make it harder and harder for the UK to sign a deal and, in doing so, place demands like this 'non-regression clause' on the UK to try and tie it to the EU as much as possible.
This is a game that Barnier is playing to try and ensure that we have 'Brexit in name only'. In doing so, he's asking that in exchange for a deal this October, the UK signs away its freedoms or, instead, follow the EU's plan and negotiate throughout the delaying period - allowing more time for the EU to try and wreck Brexit and tie the UK to the infrastructure of the EU.
We say to that: Barnier, we know your game.
We say to the government: put aside your desire for a deal at all costs and stand up to these bullies. Remember, no deal is better than a bad deal.