London: Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has dismissed as "intellectually impossible" the notion that Britain could retain unfettered access to the European single market while also cutting down on EU immigration.
Dijsselbloem was reacting to an interview by Boris Johnson with Czech daily Hospodarske noviny in which the British foreign minister reportedly said Britain would "probably" have to leave the European customs union but still have "free trade" with EU states.
"He`s saying things that are intellectually impossible, politically unavailable," Dijsselbloem, who is the Dutch finance minister and head of the eurozone, told the BBC`s Newsnight programme on Tuesday.
"I think he`s not offering the British people a fair view of what is available and what can be achieved in these negotiations," he said.
The European Union`s customs union is a free trade area between member states that imposes a common external tariff on all goods entering the EU.
Turkey, which is not a member state, is also in a customs union with the EU with some exceptions.
Dijsselbloem said that the British and EU economies would both be in "a worse situation" after Brexit.
Britain`s departure would be "a step back," he said, adding: "The UK will be outside the internal market and there will be some hindrances".
"There is no win-win situation. It`s going to be a lose-lose situation and in the best case if we set aside all emotions and try to reach an agreement that is least damaging to both of us we can minimise the damages.
"We can do our best to minimise damages but it`s going to be a step back and that is what Boris Johnson should start talking about," he said.
Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum in June and Prime Minister Theresa May has said it will trigger the formal procedure for departure by March 2017 at the latest.
One of the key factors behind the Brexit vote was the influx of hundreds of thousands of citizens of other EU states into Britain every year.
May has said she wants to cut these numbers while retaining "maximum" access to the EU single market for British firms but EU leaders have ruled this out, saying Britain would have to accept free movement.