EU must avoid cliff-edge in talks with Britain, says senior EU official

18.12.2019 - Evdokimov Roman
EU must avoid cliff-edge in talks with Britain, says senior EU official

The EU will have to limit discussions about its future relationship with Britain to avoid heading into another cliff-edge, a senior EU official said. This statement came after Britain affirmed its exit from the European Union before 2020 ends.

After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s big election win, he planned to work on declaring the Brexit transition period beyond 2020 as unlawful. He plans to use the chance of a cliff-edge to demand an 11-month comprehensive free trade deal.

“Given all the signals… we are well advised to take seriously that the UK does not intend to go for an extension of the transition and we need to be prepared for that,” Sabine Weyand, director-general of EU’s trade department said.

“That means in the negotiations we have to look at those issues where failing to reach an agreement by 2020 would lead to another cliff-edge situation,” she added.

Weyand said that the European Commission was already ready to start negotiating with Britain after the latter formally declared its exit in Jan. 31 and as it was already sure about its priorities.

Any quota-free and duty-free deal has to be conducted in level playing field, such as areas in state aid and competition, labour and environmental law, and taxation.

This deal would go beyond the requirements that were set for the deals with Latin America or Japan, as these two were less economically integrated with the EU.

“All these things need to be coordinated so that we maximise our negotiating leverage,” Weyand said.

The European Commission was set to brief the rest of the EU countries regarding its work programs on the talks with Britain beginning from January to the last quarter of 2020.

One of the EU diplomats said that Boris Johnson’s proposal for the deadline would leave both Britain and the EU worse off.

“Haste will come at the expense of services and security. This means we are pretty much guaranteed a WTO-style exit,” added the diplomat, citing to the WTO rules that were applied due to the absence of a full-fledged deal.

Another EU diplomat said that the EU was ready for any contingence.

“The EU’s position hasn’t changed: we want to negotiate a good deal with our close British neighbors. But if the UK limits its options prematurely and… sleepwalks into a no-deal at the end of 2020, the EU would be well-prepared, ready to mitigate the effects on its member states,” he said.

Analysts claim that Britain and the EU will have difficulties in coming up with a comprehensive trade deal within a year despite the fact that they are closely aligned on the rules and regulations.

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