02.03.20 - The U.K. formally left the European Union on Friday, marking the end of tough negotiations and political play both in Europe and domestically within the U.K.. But as Britain begins its life outside of the political union it had been tied to since the 1950s, new negotiations are set to begin over a future trade deal between Britain and Europe.
Although the deal is expected to be considered beneficial for both parties, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signaled his willingness to potentially walk away from the negotiating table if the EU demands the U.K. sign up to Europe’s single market rules and regulations.
“There is no need for a free-trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar any more than the EU should be obliged to accept U.K. rules,” Johnson stated.
Officials in Westminster have signaled their desire to reach a deal similar, if not better, to the one Europe has previously reached with Canada, but seem willing and confident to walk away from any deal that keeps Britain under the direct umbrella of Europe’s single market.
In Brussels, Michel Barnier (the EU chief Brexit negotiator) seems set to lay out the EU’s proposition for a future trade deal. The proposition is expected to include where he sees Britain having to abide by European rules and regulations. The proposition is also anticipated to include the European Court of Justice’s role within a future economic relationship between the two markets – which is expected to draw fiery criticism from British negotiators.
The challenge for Barnier, in addition to keeping all of its member countries with competing priorities on board, is ensuring the EU comprehends what Johnson and his advisors ultimately want. It seems certain that the EU is demanding strict rule-alignment commitments in return for the type of close trading relationship that Johnson seems willing to forgo.