UK won't go soft on EU alignment in Brexit talks, Johnson's office says

02 Apr 2020 12:42 pm

The UK won't be pushed into softening its Brexit plans and will seek a "Canada-style" free-trade agreement with no obligation to follow EU rulemaking, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted on Monday, 16 December.

The prime minister would resist any commitment to maintain "alignment" with the EU under the terms of a trade relationship to be negotiated after the UK's exit from the bloc, he said.

Johnson's Conservative Party secured a majority of 80 seats in last Thursday's general election, a margin that should allow him to ratify the UK's withdrawal agreement with ease, and could give him greater freedom to consider compromises with the EU over the terms of a future trade relationship.

The EU has made clear Johnson would need to accept alignment with key areas if he wished to secure a trade deal on favorable terms, to address fears the UK will undercut the bloc.

But Johnson's spokesman today said the UK government would follow its own course. "The PM made clear in the general election that he would seek a Canada-style free-trade agreement with no political alignment."

"We will be taking back control of our laws. The political declaration sets out there is a joint aim with the UK and EU for tariff-free and quota-free trade. The PM has stressed throughout the whole Brexit process the importance of setting our own laws, like every country in the world does."

The so-called level playing field commitments will be a key area of tension in the negotiations. The EU has said cleaving to common standards in state aid, labor and environmental law will be a precondition for the UK securing a zero-tariff free-trade agreement.

The remarks from Johnson's office today indicate that the UK government will be hostile to the principle of adhering to EU law after the UK's departure.

But the spokesman downplayed the possibility of the UK failing to secure an exit agreement by Johnson's self-imposed deadline of the end of next year. Johnson has ruled out extending the transition period — which amounts to 11 months, assuming the UK leaves the EU as planned on Jan. 31 — and officials say he has no intention of changing that position.

"It's in the interests of both the UK and the EU to get a good deal. That's what we are going to secure," the spokesman said.

The government will on Friday present to lawmakers the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill — legislation to implement the terms of the divorce in domestic law.

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