Boris Johnson, Michel Barnier talk tough on trade

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson  

Britain and the EU laid down on Monday their red lines for post-Brexit trade talks, offering contrasting visions for their future relationship that raise the prospect of clashes to come.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged not to “undermine EU standards”, after the U.K. finally went its own way on Friday after nearly half a century in the bloc and an 11-month transition period began.

Champion of free trade

But he envisioned his country as a global champion of free trade, emphatically rejecting EU insistence on full alignment with Brussels.

Worries over trade negotiations sent the pound sinking more than 1.1% against the dollar in London midday deals on Monday.

“I see no need to bind ourselves to an agreement with the EU,” Mr. Johnson said in a speech at the Old Royal Naval College, which chronicles Britain’s past as a maritime superpower.

“We will restore full sovereign controls over our borders, immigration, competition, subsidy rules, procurement (and) data protection.”

He added: “We will not engage in some cut-throat race to the bottom.

“We are not leaving the EU to undermine European standards. We will not engage in any kind of dumping, whether commercial, social or environmental.”

In Brussels, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier formally offered a deep future relationship but only as long as Britain makes guarantees to trade fairly.

Mr. Barnier said fisheries and fair trade would be his top priorities in the talks, with a special focus on denying Britain “unfair competitive advantages”.

Brussels will offer a close post-Brexit trading relationship — but will demand tough terms on fisheries and a level playing field for businesses, he said.

His vision flies in the face of that of Mr. Johnson, who insists that Britain’s alignment with Europeans on rules and regulations defies the spirit of Brexit and was a thing of the past.

“We are ready to offer a highly ambitious trade deal as the central pillar of this partnership, including zero tariffs,” Mr. Barnier said.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:59:41 PM |

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