EU has up­per hand in post-Brexit trade: Lamy

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Brus­sels, Bel­gium - The for­mer head of the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­pects Bri­tain to strug­gle for years to re­de­fine its ties with Europe - and says Brits won’t swal­low US prod­ucts like chlo­ri­nated chicken.

Pas­cal Lamy, who has been an EU trade com­mis­sioner too, said Lon­don and Brus­sels may yet come to a bare bones trade deal this year to avoid a break­down in ties. But fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions will con­tinue for many years af­ter that, and the smaller Bri­tish econ­omy will be at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to the much big­ger and richer Euro­pean Union.

If 2020 and the post-Brexit tran­si­tion pe­riod come to an end with­out a deal be­tween Lon­don and Brus­sels, cross-Chan­nel trade will be dis­rupted by bor­der checks and tar­iffs.

“The EU and the United King­dom would fall un­der WTO rules, which isn’t hell but is far from to­day’s heaven. It would hurt, which would be stupid,” Lamy told AFP in Brus­sels.

“In my opin­ion, they’ll find a way - that’s the diplo­mat’s art.”

As things stand, the two camps seem far apart as, in Lamy’s phrase, Prime Min­is­ter

Boris John­son and EU ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier put on their ‘war paint’ ahead of in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions. John­son in­sists he will give no ground on re­assert­ing Bri­tish sovereignt­y over its fish­ing wa­ters, end­ing free move­ment of cit­i­zens and es­cap­ing from EU laws and reg­u­la­tions.

But Barnier’s ne­go­ti­at­ing man­date will be equally clear that Bri­tain will not en­joy priv­i­leged ac­cess to the EU mar­ket if it does not ac­cept tough con­di­tions to en­sure a level play­ing field.

Lamy thinks that John­son, whom he has known since the Bri­tish PM’s for­mer life as a Brus­sels-based jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing EU pol­i­tics, will give ground when eco­nomic re­al­ity sets in.

Pas­cal Lamy

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