EU-UK trade talks kick off

Published March 3, 2020
Long-awaited trade talks between the European Union and Britain kicked off on Monday amid deep tensions over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threat to walk away from the negotiations if not enough progress is made within four months. — AFP/File
Long-awaited trade talks between the European Union and Britain kicked off on Monday amid deep tensions over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threat to walk away from the negotiations if not enough progress is made within four months. — AFP/File

BRUSSELS: Long-awaited trade talks between the European Union and Britain kicked off on Monday amid deep tensions over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threat to walk away from the negotiations if not enough progress is made within four months.

Britain left the EU on Jan 31, the first country ever to do so. Mondays talks mark the start of a process aimed at securing new commercial, fishing and other ties with the worlds biggest trading bloc.

All that has to be concluded by the end of this year, according to Johnson.

The chief negotiators the EU’s Michel Barnier and the UK’s David Frost held an initial meeting in Brussels on Monday before scores of officials from the two sides got down to business.

Barnier has warned the UK said that no deal can provide the frictionless trade that membership provided.

The first round of talks will run until Thursday and will center mostly on negotiating formalities, although some discussion on the substance of an agreement is expected. The teams are expected to meet every two to three weeks, alternating between Brussels and London. Half a dozen or so rounds of negotiations are expected to take place by the end of June.

That will be a crucial moment in the discussions. Under the divorce agreement signed last year, Britain must decide by June 30 whether it wants to extend a transition period that is aimed at smoothing its departure from the bloc, of which it was a member of for 47 years.

Johnson has insisted that he won’t agree to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year. That effectively means that if the two sides can’t strike a deal this year, Britain and the EU will then trade on terms outlined by the World Trade Organisation, which would see tariffs and other restrictions imposed.

During the transition, Britain effectively remains within the EU’s economic orbit, including its single market for trade in goods and services, even though it has left its political institutions.

The EU has said it won’t be pressured by Johnson’s demand to wrap up a trade deal by the end of this year and is keen to ensure that his government does not secure an agreement that could give Britain a competitive advantage. EU negotiators want Britain to sign up to a swathe of EU regulations on environmental standards, workers’ rights and state aid.

Britain says it won’t lower its standards in those areas, but insists it won’t agree to mirror EU rules. London’s negotiating mandate states: we will not agree to any obligations for our laws to be aligned with the EU’s, or for the EU’s institutions, including the Court of Justice, to have any jurisdiction in the UK.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020

Opinion

Big win, bigger challenges
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Big win, bigger challenges

Pakistan should be smug. It is not. There are a number of likely scenarios that must be the source of its unease.
Power of stays
19 Sep 2021

Power of stays

Great power means no one dare ask you questions.
Local decay
18 Sep 2021

Local decay

The set-up in Sindh exercises total control over LG functions.

Editorial

Talking to the Taliban
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Talking to the Taliban

PRIME Minister Imran Khan has announced that he has started a dialogue with the Taliban for the formation of a...
New Zealand’s departure
Updated 19 Sep 2021

New Zealand’s departure

THERE was chaos and despair when New Zealand decided to call off their tour of Pakistan barely minutes before the...
19 Sep 2021

Crucial polio campaign

THE national vaccination campaign that kicked off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday is being described by experts as...
Blinken’s remarks
Updated 18 Sep 2021

Blinken’s remarks

The US establishment cannot scapegoat Pakistan for two decades of bad policy in Afghanistan.
18 Sep 2021

Worrying survey

THE findings of the Labour Force Survey 2018-19 indicate that some important headline trends have already taken or...
18 Sep 2021

Special needs

THE fact that only 3,653 children with special needs, out of some 300,000 in Sindh, are registered with the...