The rocky road ahead — European Union trade talks

01 Mars, 2020, 02:28 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • The Frosty Channel Britain European Union Brexit

Brussels and London hunkered down for what may turn out to be an extremely fractious exercise to squeeze the maximum benefits out of each other, especially on trade and commerce. The first will start on March 2 in Brussels.

After leaving the European Union last month, Britain has until the end of the year to negotiate a trade deal and agreements on everything from fishing to transport, ending more than 40 years of close political and economic relations.

This would see Britain's now seamless trading arrangements with the European Union, forged over half a century of membership, end once a post-Brexit transition period expires in December.

The UK's stance about shifting the focus to no-deal preparations if they fail to have a broad outline of an agreement by June seems to the primary trigger.

It adds that the standards should apply "in the areas of state aid, competition, state-owned enterprises, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, relevant tax matters and other regulatory measures and practices in these areas".

Failure to reach a new agreement with the EU - Britain's largest trading partner - is likely to be hugely disruptive.

On Tuesday, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the talks would be "complex, demanding and difficult" and repeated that the United Kingdom "cannot expect high-quality access to the single market if it is not prepared to accept guarantees that competition remains open and fair, free and fair".

After the mandate was launched, Johnson said he was "very optimistic" about the talks.

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"Businesses are pragmatic, but need the UK-EU negotiations to deliver clarity on the many practical, real-world details that will affect their day-to-day operations for years to come", Adam Marshall, its director-general, said.

France's Europe minister has warned Britain about the danger of self-imposed "artificial deadlines" in this year's Brexit talks, suggesting both sides should be braced for a further six months of negotiations beyond Christmas if necessary.

Some of the most controversial issues are tariffs, border restrictions and fisheries.

Another flashpoint is on the politically sensitive issue of fishing rights.

Friday's document, which sets out the terms of reference for the talks, says June's "high-level" meeting between chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier will aim to "agree actions to move forward in negotiations on the future relationship".

Both sides say they want a deal to be agreed before December 31, 2020, a deadline Britain has said it is not willing to extend, and Montchalin said she believed that was possible if there was an understanding of what could be achieved in that time. To Johnson's government, that is unacceptable.

The UK strategy was agreed on Monday by the EU Exit Strategy (XS) committee, which includes new Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, senior cabinet minister Michael Gove and new Attorney General Suella Braverman.

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