EU-UK Trade Deal: EU Hopes for ‘More Ambitious’ Post-Brexit Trading Arrangement

Written by | Thursday, February 13th, 2020

The United Kingdom should aim at an ambitious post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union – that was the plea from the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as she spoke on Tuesday (11 February) at the European Parliament’ first plenary session since the British departure from the bloc. Von der Leyen highlighted environmental policy, data protection and fisheries, among other key topics, that both sides will have to tackle as they negotiate their future relationship. Since Brexit in late January, both sides have been setting out their positions ahead of formal talks next month. The UK government has indicated it wants only minimal alignment with EU rules, which has repeatedly been rejected by EU leaders.
When laying out her vision of the potential new trading relationship, the European Commission President described as “music to our ears” the recent proclamation by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK would be a “global champion of free trade”. “Something we have never ever before offered to anybody else: a new model of trade, a unique ambition in terms of access to the single market, but of course this would require corresponding guarantees on fair competition and the protection of social, environmental and consumer standards. In short, this is plain and simply this level playing field,” von der Leyen told MEPs.
However, Boris Johnson has recently said he can’t see why the UK should align to EU rules on state aid, the environment or social policy as part of any trade deal. As his government has ruled out by law an extension to the transition period, some MEPs doubt a new UK-EU deal can be successfully negotiated in such a short time. Von der Leyen also expressed her surprise at Johnson’s inspiration by the “Australian model” and his description of the World Trade Organization (WTO) terms that would kick in should there be no UK-EU trade deal when the transition period expires at the end of the year. “If this is the British choice, we are fine with that – without any question. … Of course, the UK can decide to settle for less. But I personally believe that we should be way more ambitious,” the Commission chief said.

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