“No need” to accept EU rules to win trade deal, prime minister says

Published by Scott Challinor on February 3rd 2020, 9:09am

Prime minister Boris Johnson will make a speech in London on Monday outlining his ambition for a Canada-style free-trade agreement with the EU.

Johnson is expected to say that there is “no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules”, defying Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s insistence that both sides must agree to a level playing field.

Johnson is not thought to be ruling out the prospect of falling back on World Trade Organisation terms if he is unable to negotiate the free-trade agreement he is pursuing.

He is expected to say in his speech: "We have often been told that we must choose between full access to the EU market, along with accepting its rules and courts on the Norway model, or an ambitious free trade agreement, which opens up markets and avoids the full panoply of EU regulation, on the example of Canada.

"We have made our choice - we want a free trade agreement, similar to Canada's but in the very unlikely event that we do not succeed, then our trade will have to be based on our existing Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

"The choice is emphatically not 'deal or no deal'. The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada's - or more like Australia’s.

"In either case, I have no doubt that Britain will prosper.”

The EU’s free trade agreement with Canada means that import tariffs largely do not apply, although customs and VAT checks do. Services such as banking, however, are more tightly regulated.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that future trade talks will be “hard and fair and fast”, but stressed that the UK would need to be aligned with more EU standards if it wished for its relationship with the bloc to be closer.

However, Johnson is expected to rule out the notion of the UK needing to align itself with any EU rules on issues such as “competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar".

He will add that he will pursue a “pragmatic agreement on security, protecting out citizens without trespassing on the autonomy of our respective legal systems".

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier will also outline the bloc’s strategy for trade talks later on Monday.

UK-EU trade talks are due to commence in March. In the backdrop, Johnson's cabinet will seek to begin talks on new free-trade deals with other nations such as the US.

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
February 3rd 2020, 9:09am

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