U.K. to seek Canada-style free trade deal with EU

Two days after Brexit, British officials pushed the European Union on Sunday for a Canada-style free trade arrangement as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson geared up for a key speech to spell out his government’s negotiating stance.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that Britain will seek a deal that imposes very few tariffs even though he said Britain will not seek to align its regulations with the EU.

“We are taking back control of our laws, so we are not going to have high alignment with the EU and legislative alignment with their rules,” Mr. Raab said. “We will want to cooperate and we expect the EU to follow through on their commitments to a Canada-style free trade agreement. That’s what we are pursuing. There is a great opportunity here for win-win.”

EU officials, despite offering friendly words to the British public over the weekend after the divorce that took effect on Friday night, warn that Canada only achieved largely tariff-free trade status by bringing many of its rules in line with EU regulations. EU officials fear that the U.K. could water down its environment or health and safety precautions, undermining EU businesses.

The trade talks are vital because now that Britain has officially left the bloc — the first nation ever to do so — Mr. Johnson hopes to have a wide-ranging new deal in place by the end of the year.

Johnson’s speech

After celebrating Brexit by banging on a gong in the final seconds before it took effect, Mr. Johnson plans to detail Britain’s trade stance in a speech Monday.

European leaders have said that Britain will not be able to get a deal like Canada’s if it breaks significantly with EU rules on food safety, environmental standards, worker’s rights and other matters impacting on public well-being.

Irish PM Leo Varadkar on Sunday urged Mr. Johnson’s Conservative government not to follow the mistakes of his predecessor by establishing “rigid red lines” that make it much more difficult to reach an agreement.

Mr. Varadkar did say he believes Mr. Johnson’s reassurances that Britain “will not seek to undercut” the EU when it comes to labour standards, environmental standards, product standards and health and safety.

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