UK Slams EU’s ‘Low-Quality’ Deal that No ‘Democratic Country Could Sign’

Pro-Brexit activists protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 11, 2018. - British Prime Minister Theresa May began a humiliating European tour on Tuesday in a desperate bid to salvage her Brexit deal, a day after delaying a parliamentary vote on the text to avoid a crushing …
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In a scathing letter to Brussels bureaucrat Michel Barnier, David Frost criticised the European Union’s offer of a “low-quality trade agreement” which contains provisions that no “democratic country could sign”.

The UK’s chief EU adviser wrote to his Brussels counterpart, Mr Barnier, on Tuesday, calling for the EU to deal with the UK in trade negotiations as a partner on equal terms. He also criticised the bloc for trying to pressure Brexit Britain into accepting worse deal conditions than it had offered other nations around the world in a forensic, four-page breakdown of Europe’s offer.

Mr Frost said that the UK has been clear and consistent in its intentions in seeking a free trade agreement with the European Union. However, he said he found it “perplexing” that Brussels treats the UK as an “unworthy” partner, forced to accept restrictive provisions as a precondition for a deal despite Brussels not making similar demands when negotiating FTAs with countries like Mexico, New Zealand, or South Korea.

It should have come as no surprise to the government sherpa, however, that the EU would offer a worse deal to the UK than it had to other countries, given that reports revealed in January that Brussels would do as much.

The EU has maintained that the UK must abide by several Brussels rules to secure an FTA, one of the most contentious of which is the UK submitting to “level playing field” rules to prevent the UK becoming too competitive on the global stage to the detriment of the EU-27.

“Your text contains novel and unbalanced proposals which would bind this country to EU law or standards, and would prescribe the institutions which we would need to establish to deliver on these provisions,” Mr Frost said, noting that the UK had already designed regulations in line with arrangements agreed between the EU and Canada.

He continued: “To take a particularly egregious example, your text would require the UK simply to accept EU state aid rules; would enable the EU, and only the EU, to put tariffs on trade with the UK if we breached those rules; and would require us to accept an enforcement mechanism which gives a specific role to the European Court of Justice.

“You must see that this is simply not a provision any democratic country could sign, since it would mean that the British people could not decide our own rules to support our own industries in our own Parliament.”

Mr Frost also tore apart the EU’s position that the provisions must be maintained with the UK and not other partners simply due to the UK’s location in Europe and “proximity” to the European Union. He argued it “amounts to saying that a country in Europe cannot expect to determine its own rules, simply on the grounds of geography, and that it must bend to EU norms. That is not an argument that can hope to be accepted in the 21st century.”

“What is on offer is not a fair free trade relationship between close economic partners, but a relatively low-quality trade agreement coming with unprecedented EU oversight of our laws and institutions,” he added.

While Mr Frost added that he still believes the two parties can agree on a “straightforward” FTA similar to those the EU has made with its global partners, interactions between the two teams have been strained, with the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations ending in deadlock.

If the UK cannot agree to a good deal with the EU, it will leave the bloc’s institutions at the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020, and trade with the EU-27 on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms. Further, should sufficient progress not be made by next month, the UK will make preparations for a WTO relationship, with reports the government is ramping up no-deal planning in anticipation of talks collapsing.

By contrast, international trade secretary Liz Truss said on Monday that negotiations with her U.S. counterpart were “positive and constructive”.

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