The UK Has Made up Its Mind’: No 10 Hits Back at EU over Brexit Ultimatum, Will Publish Draft FTA Pact

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks and takes questions during a press conference in Downing Street regarding the coronavirus outbreak, on March 9, 2020. in London, England. (Alberto Pezzali - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Alberto Pezzali - WPA Pool/Getty Images

A spokesman for Prime Minister Johnson said that the UK has “made up its mind” over what it wants from a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, the remarks coming after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Britain must choose either close alignment to the EU or lose access to the Single Market.

On Monday, the chief of the EU’s powerful executive arm had said that if the UK wants frictionless, tariff-free trade it must “play by the rules” on matters including accepting European court decisions; ‘level playing field’ regulations on labour rights, environmental rules, tax, and state aid ( i.e., subsidies given by the government to British industries); and continuous access of Britain’s fishing waters to EU fishermen.

“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,” Mrs von der Leyen said.

“The UK has made up its mind very decisively,” the prime minster’s official spokesman said, “and has been very clear about what it wants from its future relationship with the EU.”

“The UK’s position is the one which secured a significant majority for the Prime Minister in the December general election,” the spokesman said in comments reported by The Telegraph.

Prime Minister Johnson said in his Greenwich speech on February 3rd that the UK is seeking a Canada-style free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, and will not accept EU rules as the price for a trade deal. Since, the government has said that if both parties’ negotiators fail to make sufficient progress by June, the UK would cease negotiations and plan an orderly exit from Brussels’ institutions in time for the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020, and trade with the bloc on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

Downing Street doubled down on the pledge, with a government spokesman telling The Telegraph on Monday: “We will not seek alignment with the EU in any way. This means that there will be new processes that exporters and importers will have to comply with, whether we reach an agreement or not.”

“Obviously this will create some friction, and we will do what we can to mitigate that, but we are firmly convinced that the benefits of having control of our own laws outweigh the costs,” he added.

Increasing pressure on the EU, Michael Gove announced yesterday that the UK would be tabling its draft FTA deal in advance of the next negotiations scheduled for March 18th to the 20th in London. The deal is reportedly a Canada-style deal, where 98 per cent of tariffs are lifted but there would still be customs checks and Value Added Tax (VAT).

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer on Tuesday that the negotiating power is now “back in our hands”, compared to the Theresa May era.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “Before the election under Theresa May — and more laterally under Boris Johnson no majority — the EU was always able to smile to itself because it knew that parliament would stymie the government at almost every turn because they didn’t have a majority.

“So they would make demands. Bear in mind, also in the negotiations, we went always to Brussels. You know, we had to go over to them which was always a sign of weakness I always thought.

“Now it is different, having got the 80 [seat] majority. It is suddenly dawning on the EU that actually the Government will, for the most part, get whatever it wants done, which means it has no fallback to parliament… They have to come to London and that is the key bit [because] it puts the power back in London’s hands, back in our hands.”

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