Britain cannot have a Canadian-style trade agreement with the EU because of its proximity to the EU, a leading Brussels bureaucrat warned today.
Stefaan De Rynck, an important aid for EU-Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, said that the proximity of the UK attaches greater importance to level playing field arrangements in terms of both distance and trade relationships.
He spoke in London this morning in the midst of an early trade agreement, where Boris Johnson wanted a Canada-style trade agreement that would give the UK the freedom to deviate from EU rules.
But in a speech at the London School of Economics, Mr. De Rynck warned that the UK and Canada were very different in EU thinking.
“Some in the UK now seem to want to become Canadians. But Dover is much closer to Calais than Ottawa, “he said.
‘Proximity is important, distance is important in trade. What is also important is the interdependence between our economies.
‘So, in terms of zero rate, zero quota access, this brings many benefits to the UK economy and benefits come with obligations.
He added: “It is clear to us that it is a different ball game for us to play with the UK than the game we agreed with Canada on the level playing field.”
Stefaan De Rynck said that the proximity of the UK in terms of both distance and trade relationships attaches greater importance to level playing field arrangements
Boris Johnson wants a Canadian-style trade agreement that would give the UK the freedom to deviate from EU rules
He spoke after David Frost, the Prime Minister’s negotiator, warned that “thinking that we can accept EU surveillance of so-called level playing field issues simply does not understand what we are doing.”
Cod wars because the EU warns its fishermen that they must keep their rights to fish in British waters
MEPs have warned Britain today if it wants a post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU that it should offer European fishermen the same level of access to British waters as they do now.
Pierre Karleskind, the newly elected President of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Commission, said the block would accept ‘nothing more, nothing less’ than the current arrangements.
He insisted that the British agreement on this would be “a condition for concluding the economic partnership” between both parties.
But Boris Johnson is determined that Britain will decide who can fish in its waters when it becomes an independent coastal state at the end of this year.
The Prime Minister also said that priority will be given to British fishing boats with the UK and the EU, now firmly on a collision course on this issue.
The purpose of ‘zero rate, zero quota’ trade is laid down in the political declaration that the prime minister and the EU agreed in 2019.
But Mr. De Rynck said there was concern in Brussels about the government trying to deviate from the shared statement.
A written ministerial statement that was published earlier in February in addition to the prime minister’s Brexit speech was “a source of some concern about the level of ambition in the political statement that may not be fully achieved,” he said.
The UK and the EU “share values such as free entrepreneurship, open economies, social justice,” he said and added, “It cannot be rocket science to agree common standards.
“The idea at the heart of the political statement on which agreement has been reached is indeed that there are common standards for equal conditions of competition.”
With a deal to be reached by the end of the year, Mr. De Rynck warns that the talks can become “quite difficult”.
“We have a lot of work and we seem to take ten months, or less than ten months if you calculate the time for ratification so that everyone can be ready for the new regime on January 1, 2021,” he said.
“I would expect some of these negotiations to be rather difficult, perhaps more difficult, than during the withdrawal, because the scope of the issues is so much greater.”
The extent of the challenge was underlined this week by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, who predicted that the two parties in the negotiations would “tear each other apart.”
Mr De Rynck also expressed the EU position on discussions on financial services and security cooperation.
He warned that an equivalence regime for financial services – where one party accepts that the regulations of the other party are sufficiently robust – would not mean as usual for the city.
“Equality is certainly not continuity, it does not exist for every service in the financial sector,” he said.
“Equivalence is not something that can compensate for the loss of the benefits of the internal market.”
As far as security is concerned, he emphasized that “as close as possible cooperation in this area will ultimately require the (European) Court of Justice” if concepts are derived from European Union law – something that Brexiteers will find hard to accept.
It came when the EU and the UK clashed over a tweet sent last night by No. 10, which published a two-year-old slide that was used by Mr. Barnier and shows the trading options available to the UK according to different red negotiating rules.
Johnson’s news agency also wrote: “In 2017, the EU showed on their own slide that a Canadian-style free trade agreement was the only relationship available to the UK. Now they say it is not offered anyway. Michel Barnier, what has changed? “
A European official, who spoke to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, described the post of news agency number 10 as ‘profoundly wrong, unfair’.
“It is wrong to say that we have changed our position. It has always been very clear that a free trade agreement is linked to a level playing field, “said the EU official, adding that the British tweet was received” very negatively “in Brussels.