Barnier Warns UK Must Stick by EU Regulations to Get a Post-Brexit Deal

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (C) answers journalists' questions as he arrives at the European Commission for a meeting with EU ambassadors on the extension to the Brexit deadline in Brussels, on October 28, 2019. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
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The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator warned that the United Kingdom would need to stick to EU regulations in order to secure a post-Brexit trade agreement with the bloc.

Trade negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom cannot formally begin until after the official Brexit day on January 31, 2020, but Michel Barnier, the EU’s top negotiator, has laid out the goal of locking the UK into a series of rules and regulations ahead of any trade deal.

“We will keep our strategic interests in mind. We know that competing on social and environmental standards – rather than on skills, innovation, and quality – leads only to a race to the bottom that puts workers, consumers, and the planet on the losing side”, Mr Barnier wrote in Project Syndicate.

“Thus, any free-trade agreement must provide for a level playing field on standards, state aid, and tax matters,” he added.

The European Union will likely try to force the UK to stick to these regulations out of fear that the post-Brexit UK would undercut the bloc economically, in an attempt to create a “Singapore-on-Thames” deregulated haven for business and banking off the coast of Europe.

Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Act cleared its first hurdle on Friday, passing through the House of Commons. The bill removes some of the “soft Brexit” provisions from former Prime Minister Theresa May’s scrapped withdrawal agreement and restored the primacy of UK judges over their European counterparts.

After the Act was passed Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that it “paves the path for a new agreement on our future relationship with our European neighbours based on an ambitious free-trade agreement, with no alignment … on EU rules, but instead control of our own laws and close and friendly relations.”

Once Brexit is secured on the 31st of January the UK will enter into a transition period of 11 months, leaving negotiators until the end of 2020 to secure a trade deal.

“That will be immensely challenging, but we will give it our all, even if we won’t be able to achieve everything. Never will it be the EU that fails on common ambition”, wrote Barnier.

At the same time, Boris Johnson will likely enter into trade discussions with the United States and President Donald Trump, a prospect that would bolster the United Kingdom’s stance in trade talks with the EU.

The Sunday Times reported that President Trump has invited Boris Johnson to the White House to celebrate his Brexit victory and to begin trade talks, however, no date has been set as of this reporting.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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