EU Chief: If UK Wants Access to Single Market It Must ‘Play by the Rules’

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 04: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference following a meeting with Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg and the announcement of a new EU climate deal, at the European Commission on March 4, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty …
Leon Neal/Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that if the UK wants a trade deal with access to the Single Market, Brexit Britain must stay constrained by EU rules.

Addressing reporters in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, the chief of the EU’s powerful executive arm said: “We are aware that there are differences in the approach towards what scope should the future agreement have and what are — if I may say so — the rules of the game everybody has to abide to.”

“So it will be important that the UK makes up its mind — the closer they want to have access to the single market, the more they have to play by the rules that are the rules of the Single Market.

“If this is not the UK’s choice then, of course, they will be more distant and it will be more difficult for the UK to access the single market,” Mrs von der Leyen said in comments reported by the BBC.

It is not the first time that Eurocrats have demanded the UK stay aligned to EU regulations in order to secure a trade deal with the EU. However, remarks from the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier revealed the extent to which Brussels wants London to obey other European institutions, specifically continuing to subscribe to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is administered by a non-EU body the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and continued abeyance to rulings by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

At the close of the first week of negotiations on Friday, Mr Barnier said of divergence from the ECHR: “If this position is maintained, this would have an immediate and concrete effect on the ambition of our cooperation, which will remain possible on the basis of international conventions, but which cannot be as ambitious as we wish.”  Effectively, without close adherence to European legal frameworks, aspects of a deal are on the line.

Mr Barnier reiterated that the EU demands continued access to British fishing waters, of which the return to British control Nigel Farage maintains is the “acid test of Brexit”.

After Mrs von der Leyen’s statement on Monday, Michael Gove said in a statement: “The UK’s team made clear that on 1 January 2021 the UK would regain its economic and political independence in full, and that the future relationship would need to reflect that reality.”

“Discussions in some areas identified a degree of common understanding of the ground that future talks could cover. In other areas, notably fisheries, governance and dispute settlement, and the so-called ‘level playing field’, there were, as expected, significant differences,” Mr Gove added.

Mr Gove and the UK’s negotiator David Frost also confirmed that they would be accelerating negotiations by tabling a draft free trade agreement in advance of the second round of negotiations with the EU which are set to take place on March 18th in London.

Mr Frost said last month that the UK has to be free to write her own laws and devise her own regulations as those are the “fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that if Brussels refuses to agree on a trade deal which accommodates the UK’s right to function as a free country, it could cease negotiations as early as June, leaving time for the UK to leave the EU’s institutions in an orderly fashion and deal with the bloc on World Trade Organization rules by the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020.



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