BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s Brexit negotiator said on Wednesday that Britain was not automatically entitled to any benefits that the bloc had previously granted to other partners on trade.
As the two sides negotiate a new partnership following Britain’s departure from the EU, London’s chief negotiator published a letter on Tuesday accusing Brussels of denying it trade benefits the bloc previously granted others.
“There is no automatic entitlement to any benefits that the EU may have offered or granted in other contexts and circumstances to other, often very different, partners,” the EU’s Michel Barnier said in his reply.
“The UK cannot expect high-quality access to the EU single market if it is not prepared to accept guarantees to ensure that competition remains open and fair,” Barnier said regarding the main sticking point in talks about so-called “level playing field” safeguards.
After Frost published a letter saying the EU was only offering Britain a “low quality” trade deal, Barnier said he rejected combative public statements and would prefer to engage in real technical negotiations.
He said Britain would have to commit to upholding standards on state aid, competition, climate, tax and labour in order for it to be allowed to trade freely with the bloc after the status-quo transition period following Brexit ends, which is currently due to happen on Dec. 31.
But that idea is anathema to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit campaigner who promised to take Britain out of the EU’s orbit.
Talks on a new pact to cover everything from trade to fisheries to security from 2021 have reached an impasse before a key deadline at the end of June, when the bloc and London are to assess their progress.
They can then either agree to extend negotiations beyond the end of this year – something Johnson has rejected repeatedly – or face severe economic, financial and trade damage should Britain crash out, breaking its close-knit EU ties without a deal in place to cushion the shock.
“Success of our negotiations will only be possible if tangible and parallel progress is made across all areas of negotiations,” Barnier said, listing progress on a level playing field, governance and fisheries as needed “to avoid a stalemate”.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson)