Britain’s desire to step away from the EU’s rules is not “some clever tactical position” but the entire point of Brexit, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator has told Brussels.
In a stark warning that the UK would not capitulate to demands over the so-called level-playing field – which includes rules around competition, the environment and tax – David Frost stressed that the EU “fails to see the point of what we are doing” in breaking away from the bloc.
“We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country,” he said in a lecture to the Université Libre de Bruxelles. “It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us – to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has.
“To think that we might accept EU supervision on so called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing. It isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure – it is the point of the whole project. That’s also why we will not extend the transition beyond the end of this year. At that point we recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it?”
He also told attendees he was confident a deal could be struck in time, pointing to the Treaty of Rome as an example of the type of complex deal managed in less than a year.
Frost, who is due to begin trade talks with his counterpart Michel Barnier in a fortnight, noted that the EU would be unhappy if the UK “demanded that, to protect ourselves, the EU dynamically harmonise with our national laws”, adding that ultimately “this structure would be simply unsustainable: at some point democratic consent would snap – dramatically and finally.”
Frost stressed that the UK’s position was not a race-to-the-bottom deregulation but parity with other FTAs that would foster a “durable” partnership.
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