Number 10 bashes Michel Barnier over trade deal U-turn
Number 10 bashes Michel Barnier over trade deal U-turn as the EU negotiator who said the UK could copy Canada’s agreement now claims that we CAN’T
- Brussels warned Mr Johnson he would not get the trade agreement he craves
- Barnier’s aide said Brussels would not budge on insistence of ‘level playing field’
- He said this meant EU would not agree on a trade deal giving the UK free rein
Downing Street was engaged in an extraordinary war of words with the EU on Wednesday night after Brussels warned Boris Johnson he would not get the Canada-style trade agreement he craves.
A key aide to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Brussels would not budge from its insistence on a ‘level playing field’ on environmental protections and workers’ rights.
Stefaan De Rynck said this meant the EU would not agree to any trade deal giving the UK free rein to diverge from European standards, such as the one granted to Canada. But yesterday No10 pointed out Mr Barnier had previously said the UK could have exactly that type of Canada-style trade agreement.
A key aide to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured on Tuesday) said Brussels would not budge from its insistence on a ‘level playing field’ on environmental protections and workers’ rights
Downing Street was engaged in an extraordinary war of words with the EU last night after Brussels warned Boris Johnson (pictured last week) he would not get the Canada-style trade agreement he craves
Officials published a slide they said Mr Barnier had used in presentations, apparently offering up the prospect of such a deal. In a tweet they said: ‘In 2017 the EU showed on their own slide that a Canada-type FTA [free trade agreement] was the only available relationship for the UK. Now they say it’s not on offer after all. Michel Barnier – what’s changed?’
Trade minister Greg Hands accused Mr Barnier of having had a ‘change of heart’. He told Sky News: ‘If you look back right to the very beginning what the EU was offering the UK was a Canada-style deal. So that is what the Government…is looking to get.
‘Obviously, there will be a bit of posturing from Brussels as there always is. But our mission is clear.’
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister’s negotiator David Frost warned that the UK would never give up the right to set its own rules after the end of the Brexit transition period this year.
Responding yesterday in a speech in London, Mr De Rynck warned the EU views negotiations with the UK as a ‘different ball game’ to trade talks with Canada.
He said the UK’s closeness to the EU in terms of both distance and trading relationships meant the level playing field conditions were more important than in other trade deals struck by Brussels.
Stefaan De Rynck (pictured last year) said this meant the EU would not agree to any trade deal giving the UK free rein to diverge from European standards, such as the one granted to Canada
He stressed: ‘Some in the UK now seem to want to become Canadians, but Dover is much closer to Calais than Ottawa is. Proximity matters, distance matters in trade. What also matters is the interconnectedness between our economies. So, in terms of zero tariff, zero quota access, this brings a lot of benefits to the UK economy – and with benefits come obligations.’
Brussels claims it has to ensure Britain sticks to EU rules to protect its industry. But it emerged last night that the EU’s trade commissioner had argued that Canada’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was more than enough to protect EU interests.
The Canada deal does not commit the country to EU regulations and there is no role for the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
In a letter to the Dutch government, commissioner Phil Hogan said: ‘I would like to emphasise that CETA’s rules on environment and labour are solid and anchored in a vast network of underlying international conventions and agreements.’ He stressed: ‘These provisions are legally binding and enforceable through a dedicated dispute settlement mechanism.’
A UK source close to the trade negotiations last night said: ‘Given that the EU is praising the level playing field commitments in CETA in this way, it’s surprising they’ve suggested they would not be willing to accept similar provisions in a trade deal with the UK.’ In response to the No10 tweet, Mr Barnier said: ‘I have no time to lose in polemics right now.
‘I recommend, on both sides, that we remain calm and face the reality, the truth and the economic, social and human consequences of Brexit.’
The British Museum yesterday vowed to fight off any attempt by the EU to take back the Elgin Marbles. Brussels has threatened to demand the return of the 5th century BC Parthenon sculptures as part of a free trade deal.
Downing Street has insisted it is ‘just not happening’. Museum director Hartwig Fischer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘They were shipped to the UK completely legally.’
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