What are the UK’s red lines in the upcoming trade talks with the EU? Although Boris Johnson has said publicly that he will pursue a Canada-style trade deal and move to an Australia-style deal should that fail, there’s concern on the British side that Brussels is yet to take Johnson at his word when he says divergence is a crucial aspect of any deal. On Monday evening, the Prime Minister’s Europe Advisor and Chief Negotiator David Frost attempted to fix this with a lecture to students and academics at the Université libre de Bruxelles. Frost used the address to try to explain what type of new relationship the UK is seeking to build with the EU this year.
Frost spoke of the UK’s path to becoming a truly sovereign nation. The UK’s lead negotiator was clear that sovereignty came before else. He said that anyone who believes the UK could agree to a situation in which it has to abide by EU rules ‘fails to see the point of what we are doing’. He added that it would be a mistake to read the current language coming from the government on Brexit as a ‘clever tactical positioning’ as the UK would never be able to meet EU demands to align with its standards on state aid, labour rights, tax and the environment:
We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country. 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. So 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.