Fears over Brexit plot to tie UK into rolling trade talks – for ever
BRITISH negotiators fear a compromise plan mooted by UK Ministers and EU capitals will lead to ‘rolling trade talks with Brussels forever’, The Mail on Sunday has learnt.
Intensified negotiations between London and the EU are due to start this evening as both sides hope to inject momentum into the talks about the UK’s future trade relationship with the bloc.
For the first time since the Covid19 crisis, the talks will take place face- to- face in Brussels, with a team of 20 British negotiators due to arrive today.
In the latest round of talks, Britain’s Brexit boss David Frost has been tasked with ‘ strangling’ a fledgling plan that would see Britain ‘stand still’ on current EU rules and red tape but have to negotiate tariffs on certain goods in the future if the UK wishes to diverge away from the Brussels rules.
EU chiefs and leaders are determined to bind Britain to so-called ‘level playing field’ measures to dampen a competitive edge after we leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union on December 31 amid fears deregulation from Brussels rules will make the UK more attractive to international business.
However, the UK has repeatedly refused to engage on this idea in talks so far and publicly ruled any such measures. But Ministers at odds with No 10 believe some compromise will have to be found to avoid talks collapsing.
This new compromise idea has been discussed in both Whitehall and other EU capitals, but it is feared the fiendishly complex notion would see the UK stuck in endless rolling negotiations with the EU in perpetuity.
Mr Frost took to social media last week to distance London from the idea, despite Government sources admitting the plan had been studied in recent weeks.
He wrote: ‘I want to be clear that the Government will not agree to ideas like the one currently circulating giving the EU a new right to retaliate with tariffs if we chose to make laws suiting our interests.
‘ We could not leave ourselves open to such unforeseeable economic risk.’ However, last night sources within Mr Frost’s Taskforce Europe team accepted that Brussels may formally table the plan during talks, and it would have to be ‘seen off’ in official talks.
One Government source said: ‘They can try but we are not having any of it.’
The traditional eve-of-talks sabre rattling began in earnest this weekend, with Angela Merkel hitting out on Friday, saying that Britain must accept the consequences of walking away from the EU.
The German Chancellor said the UK will ‘ have to live with the consequences, of course, that is to say with a less closely interconnected economy’.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson hit back in a phone call with his Polish counterpart, warning Britain would walk away without a trade deal in place unless Brussels shifts. And last night Boris Johnson told The
Mail on Sunday he hoped for a swift resolution, adding: ‘There is the basis of a deal there.’
The PM added: ‘One of the great things about Brexit is that we can do things differently, including an opportunity for us to sell more of our amazing products around the world. The reality i s that our friends understand that we are absolutely serious on justice, level playing field and fish.’
Last night, Mr Frost warned that movement was needed swiftly, aft er hi s counterpart Michel Barnier hinted that Brussels may hold out until the autumn for a breakthrough.
He said: ‘Negotiations over the next few weeks won’t be easy. There are still fundamental differences between our positions and a new process in itself isn’t enough to breach the gap.
‘Any deal must reflect our wellestablished position on difficult issues such as the so-called “level playing field” and fisheries – that is, as an independent country we will have control over our laws and our waters.
‘Our sovereignty will never be up for negotiation.’
‘The EU understands that we’re absolutely serious’