Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator fires off warning to EU as trade battle begins in earnest

David Frost’s intervention comes as France warns both sides would ‘rip each other apart’ in trade talks

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Monday 17 February 2020 19:47 GMT
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

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Boris Johnson‘s chief Brexit negotiator will warn Brussels the UK must be able to set its own laws as the battle over the future trading relationship begins in earnest.

In his first public intervention, David Frost will tell an audience in Brussels that anyone who believes the UK could abide by EU rules “fails to see the point of what we are doing”.

He will insist that the UK is not bluffing over its opposition to “EU supervision” on so-called level playing field issues, which include vital protections for workers and the environment.

It comes as France’s foreign minister warned the two sides would “rip each other apart” in trade talks ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period in December.

Mr Frost will outline the UK’s position in lecture at the Universite libre de Bruxelles on Monday, in a move that marks a significant departure from the secrecy that surrounded Theresa May’s approach to the Brexit negotiations.

He was expected to say: “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.

“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.

“That’s also why we will not extend the transition beyond the end of this year. At that point we recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it?”

The prime minister’s Europe adviser will argue that the UK’s standards of regulation are often higher than the EU and that democratic consent “would snap” if either side was forced to accept the other’s rules.

“How would you feel if the UK demanded that, to protect ourselves, the EU dynamically harmonise with our national laws set in Westminster and the decisions of our own regulators and courts,” Mr Frost will ask.

He will call for “open and fair competition provisions” in any free trade agreement and say both sides must build on other EU trade deals to strike a bargain.

The call comes after French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian predicted a bruising battle on a post-Brexit deal.

Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, he said: “I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart.

“But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.”

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