UK government releases EU trade talks mandate

Published by Scott Challinor on February 27th 2020, 4:06pm

The UK government has published a 30-page document outlining its strategy for trade negotiations with the EU, warning that it is willing to abandon talks and default to World Trade Organization terms if there is no tangible progress by June.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, told Parliament that the UK was pursuing a “comprehensive free trade agreement”, and wanted a “broad outline” for a deal in place by June, with a view to an agreement being finalised in September.

The document shows that both the UK and EU are in agreement that neither side will undercut existing regulations on the environment, workers rights, competition and international tax.

However, Gove rejected the EU’s want for the UK to dynamically align with EU rules as they are updated in the future, saying: “We will not trade away our sovereignty”.

The EU, which published its own trade mandate earlier in the week, is keen to ensure the UK remains aligned to EU rules as they change in future to avoid the UK being able to eventually gain a competitive advantage.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier has previously insisted that the UK cannot have "super-preferential access" to the EU single market without accepting such alignment.

Gove rebuffed this idea, saying: "We will not be seeking to dynamically align with EU rules on EU terms governed by EU laws and EU institutions."

Furthermore, the EU would like issues such as fishing, aviation, energy and immigration to be covered under one comprehensive deal, whereas the UK favours separate agreements encompassing these matters.

The UK document explicitly outlines the need for a a separate fishing deal centred around quotas as an issue of importance, in respect of the fact that the UK will act as “an independent coastal state” from the end of the year.

This could prove a sticking point, since the EU is known to want continued access to UK waters.

There is another disagreement on state aid, with the EU wanting to continue state aid restrictions while the UK government wants them lifted in order to subsidise local industries as it wishes.

The document also stipulates that the government will “not negotiate any arrangements in which the UK does not have control of its own laws and political life” and that jurisdiction of EU law and the European Court of Justice in the UK will cease beyond 2020.

The end goal of negotiations from the UK perspective is to secure a trade deal similar to that that the EU has with Canada, but Barnier has talked down the prospect.

Speaking to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Barnier said: "The UK says that it wants Canada. But the problem with that is that the UK is not Canada.

"This is because of Britain's proximity to the EU and the much larger trade volumes it has with the EU than with Canada".

In his statement to the Commons on Thursday, Gove hit out at Barnier's comments, saying that "geography is no reason to undermine democracy".

Following the release of the document, prime minister Boris Johnson told BBC News: "The whole objective of doing what we're doing is so the UK can do things differently and better.

"All we want is mutual recognition of each other's high standards and access to each other's markets.

"We wouldn't ask the EU to follow every particular change in UK legislation so it doesn't make any sense for them to make the same requirement of us and that's where we are.”

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
February 27th 2020, 4:06pm

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