UK asked to meet fair trade promise

Updated February 11, 2020

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European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) arrives for a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels, on October 16, 2019. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) — AFP or licensors
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) arrives for a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels, on October 16, 2019. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) — AFP or licensors

LUXEMBOURG: Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday urged London to meet what he sees as its promise to compete fairly with Europe as both sides gird for a tough talks on a post-Brexit relationship.

In the upcoming trade discussions, Europe’s top concern is that Britain, which has just split with the EU, will choose to deregulate certain strategic sectors of its economy to gain an advantage over its neighbours.

“We heard (UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson) last Monday explain that he wanted a free trade agreement with the European Union while reserving for the British the right to diverge from European rules on competition, state aid, social protection or the environment,” Barnier said after a meeting in Luxembourg with Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

“We respect the British desire to reappropriate their rules, standards and laws: it is a sovereign choice. But we must be clear: the political declaration, which was agreed word for word, line for line, with Boris Johnson last October, remains and will remain the foundation of all negotiations,” he added.

Barnier was referring to the joint political declaration, a wish list for the future that was agreed alongside the EU-UK divorce deal, but is not legally binding.

London and Brussels will have to negotiate “strong guarantees to ensure fair competition and high common standards,” Barnier added in his first comments since Johnson laid down his red lines for the upcoming talks.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020