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  • The breaking point of the situation is that while the UK wants to be free to set its own rules, the EU wants some degree of regulatory alignment

    The breaking point of the situation is that while the UK wants to be free to set its own rules, the EU wants some degree of regulatory alignment | Photo: Noticias Euro Parlamento

Published 27 February 2020
Opinion

The British government has unveiled a negotiating mandate for talks with the European Union that puts it on a collision course with Brussels.

After leaving the European Union last month, the path becomes complicated for the UK, despite cabinet office minister Micheal Gove telling Parliament, "At the end of the transition period on the 31st of December, the United Kingdom will fully recover its economic and political independence."

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However, recent declarations from the British government have thrown some lights on possible frictions on their way out, stating that it was ready to walk away if "good progress" was not made by June. This predicament has unveiled a negotiating mandate for talks with the bloc that puts it on a collision course with Brussels.

London said Thursday that it would focus on preparations for a sharp break with the EU if their demands for what it calls a "standard" free trade agreement or even on the "least controversial areas" of the talks are not met.

According to The Guardian UK's negotiating requests are:

  • A liberalized market for trade in goods, with no tariffs, fees, charges, or quantitative restrictions on trade in manufactured or agricultural products.
  • Competition and subsidies won't be subject to the final agreement's dispute resolution mechanism, which had been previously signaled in the political declaration.
  • A separate agreement on fisheries that would allow for annual negotiations on access to each other's waters, including allowable catch and shares. The EU wants fishing to be considered as part of the overall agreement.
  • An agreement on equivalence on financial services to be decided before the end of June.
  • No participation in the European arrest warrant but a similar extradition agreement as the EU has with Iceland and Norway – a position likely to cause alarm among law enforcement bodies.

The possible breaking point is that while the UK wants to be free to set its own rules, the EU wants some degree of regulatory alignment. This regulation relates to the option of imposing tariffs if one side reneges, as well what role the European Court of Justice would have if any, The Guardian reports.

At the heart of the conflict is the UK's demand for a trade deal along the lines of one between the EU and Canada. However, the bloc has highlighted that the UK, by geographic position, is a more significant threat to its market as it does more business than Canada, and it could undercut its market by lowering standards.

"Geography is no reason to undermine democracy," Gove said, addressing Parliament. "To be clear, we will not be seeking to dynamically align with EU rules on EU terms governed by EU laws and EU institutions."

"We want the best possible trading relationship with the EU, but in pursuit of a deal, we will not trade away our sovereignty," he emphasized.

PM Boris Johnson pledged to get Brexit done at last year's election, and, with a vast majority in Parliament, he and his team feel he has won public backing for a clean break in ties to restore what he calls British sovereignty. That is at odds with Brussels' pursuit of a closer trading relationship.

If a standard trade agreement is not on offer then, the UK has said it would pursue what it calls a relationship similar to that established between the EU and Australia, a trade relationship that runs along with basic World Trade Organization default rules. However, there would be specific agreements for certain goods.

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