EU says final Brexit trade deal will be 'along same lines' as agreements with Canada, South Korea and Japan

Michel Barnier says UK red lines have ruled out relationship similar to other European countries

Jon Stone
Wednesday 20 December 2017 12:08 GMT
Michel Barnier says South Korea represents UK's end relationship with the EU after Brexit

The United Kingdom’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU will be “along the same lines” as the ones signed between the union and countries like South Korea, Japan, and Canada, the European Commission’s chief negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier said Theresa May’s red lines to take Britain out of the customs union and single market, and to reject the jurisdiction of European courts, meant a close relationship similar to the ones the EU has with other non-EU European countries was off the table.

The statement is an explicit knock-back for Downing Street, which said only the day before that it wanted a “bespoke deal” with the EU that was “significantly more ambitious deal than the EU’s agreement with Canada”.

“Logically, for the economic side of our partnership, we’ll be working on the basis of a free-trade agreement – along the same lines of what we negotiated and signed with Canada, South Korea, and Japan,” Mr Barnier told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

“There are of course differences between these different models, because each of these trade models is of course tailor-made and specific to these countries when we sign these agreements.

“But it’s the same approach and logic underpinning these agreements. That’ll be the situation with the United Kingdom in light of what they said their position is themselves.”

Crucially, Mr Barnier said no other EU free-trade agreement had yet covered financial services, suggesting the City of London could be left out in the cold. Financial services were potentially to be a part of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) agreement with the United States, but talks on this agreement have now collapsed.

A slide drawn up by the chief negotiator and widely circulated in Brussels shows that the UK could not have a Norwegian or Icelandic-style deal because of the PM refusing jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), free movement, regulatory alignment and making a financial contribution to the EU budget.

A Swiss-style deal is also off the table because of the UK’s rejection of free movement, regulatory alignment and financial payments.

Britain would also be unable to have a relationship with the EU similar to the one enjoyed by Ukraine – which would require some regulatory alignment and recognition of the ECJ. The model followed by Turkey is also ruled out because of the UK’s desire to sign trade agreements with other countries – leaving a looser deal such as the one with non-European countries like South Korea as the only option.

Also speaking at the same press conference, Mr Barnier confirmed that the commission wanted any Brexit transition deal to end on 31 December 2020 – just under two years.

This recommendation, which is broadly in line with the request made by Theresa May in her Florence speech, coincides with the end of the EU’s multi-annual financial framework – effectively its budget period.

Theresa May has ruled out single market and customs union membership – putting a close economic relationship off the table (PA)

“The transition period is useful and it will enable the public administration in Britain to prepare themselves for the kind of challenges that they will have to face at their borders, which are also our borders, and to prepare for the new relationship,” he told reporters in Brussels.

“It should be of a short and specific duration: at Florence, Theresa May in her speech referred to a maximum of two years. Our position, the European Commission’s position, is that this would run logically to 31 December 2020 because that’s also the duration of the current multi-annual financial framework.”

But he warned that if negotiations collapsed there would still be no transition period, arguing that an orderly withdrawal and transition “go hand-in-hand”.

The UK and EU are expected to move onto talks about the Brexit transition period swiftly in the new year, but talks about of the framework for the future trade relationship have been put back until March to give both sides more time to prepare.

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