Though Boris Johnson has always remained bullish, Michel Barnier has confirmed that the EU will not be offering the UK a “Canada-Free Trade Agreement-type relationship.”
The Canada deal with the EU took seven years to negotiate, and Johnson was known to want similar terms, however, the EU’s chief negotiator, despite asserting a willingness to come to a deal with the UK has noted the reason why it can’t be along the same lines as Canada’s.
Under the agreement, import tariffs on most goods have been eliminated between the two countries, though there are still customs and VAT checks.
“We remain ready to offer the UK an ambitious partnership,” Barnier said.
“A trade agreement that includes in particular fishing and includes a level playing field, with a country that has very particular proximity – a unique territorial and economic closeness – which is why it can’t be compared to Canada or South Korea or Japan.”
After leaving the EU on January 31, the UK remains in a transition period where it will follow the EU rules until a post-Brexit trade deal is hammered out. That said, Boris Johnson has earmarked 31 December as a cut-off date for any deal to be cut, saying he will not extend the transition period beyond then.
The EU at present is steadfast in its stance on workers’ rights, business’s environmental regulations and state aid for businesses.
They continue to assert that they will refuse tariff-free access to its single market for British companies if those companies have the ability to undercut their rivals in the EU.
Interestingly, David Frost, when articulating the British response, suggested that freedom to diverge from EU rules was the “whole point of Brexit,” and that the UK “must have the ability to set laws that suit us.”
In a future where the EU and UK will be economic competitors as well as partners, how level the ‘level playing field’ will actually be is anyone’s guess.
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