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UK Brexit negotiator: We’re not bluffing on not accepting EU rules



The U.K.’s rejection of demands that it stay aligned with EU rules post Brexit is not a “negotiating position which might move under pressure,” but central to the government’s vision for the country beyond 2020, according to Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost.

In a rare speech in Brussels before the second phase of Brexit talks get underway next month, Frost will give a robust response to the EU’s red line on maintaining a so-called level playing field — the demand that London stays aligned to EU rules on environmental and labor protection, for example.

Laying out the EU’s position earlier this month, chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that Brussels is willing to do a deal that includes zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the EU’s single market, but that it would come with conditions. “We need to make sure competition is and remains open and fair,” Barnier said.

In remarks briefed to journalists ahead of his lecture at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on Monday evening, Frost says staying aligned with EU rules would defeat the point of Brexit.

“We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country. It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us — to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has,” he says.

“So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so-called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing. It isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure — it is the point of the whole project,” he adds, signaling again that the level playing field issue is set to be a major crunch point in the talks.

Frost points out that U.K. standards have in some cases been higher than those required by Brussels. And he points out that London is not demanding that EU countries stay aligned with the U.K. in order to protect British standards. “The more thoughtful would say that such an approach would compromise the EU’s sovereign legal order; that there would be no democratic legitimacy in the EU for the decisions taken in the U.K. to which the EU would be bound.”

EU diplomats and officials will likely calculate that the loss of trade for the U.K. as a result of tariffs will be more economically painful for London than it is for the Brussels.

Frost will also reject the notion that the U.K. will extend the negotiating period beyond the end of the year, despite numerous warnings from trade experts and officials on the EU side that will only leave time for a minimalist trade deal — or no deal. “At that point we recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it?” Frost will ask.



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