Brexit: EU's demands in negotiations with UK revealed in draft treaty

  13 March 2020    Read: 1030
Brexit: EU

Britain will have to guarantee “uniform implementation” of Brussels’s state subsidy rules while the European court of justice will hand down rulings to British courts, under the EU’s vision of the future relationship with the UK.

A 441-page treaty draft, obtained by the Guardian, spells out in full legal text for the first time the demands that Brussels will make of David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, in the next round of talks.

The document, which is yet to be shared with Boris Johnson’s government, highlights the distance between the two sides across a host of issues, including on the so-called level playing field conditions for British and EU businesses and rules on state aid.

Across the board, the EU envisages a close relationship in light of the close economic and security ties of today, including an insistence that the definition of terrorism used by both sides should be based on a current directive as a price for cooperation.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, tweeted: “We’ve sent a draft agreement on new partnership to [the European parliament] & [EU council] for discussion.

“It shows ambitious and comprehensive future relationship is possible. We must give ourselves every chance of success. We will publish the text after our exchanges & look forward to working [with the UK]”.

The document appears to signal a weakening in the EU position in only one key area: its demands on fisheries, where the 27 member states had until now been seeking to “uphold” the current common fisheries policy (CFP).

The CFP relies on historical catching patterns to determine how much fish each nation can take. The new text acknowledges the UK demand for scientific advice to take precedence and for there to be annual negotiations.

Elsewhere, however, the draft treaty offers little succour to the British government, which insists that it will not sign up to any arrangements that involve continued direct application of current EU law or oblige parliament to implement new Brussels rules in the future.

Despite the British insistence that it will devise its own state aid rules, limiting the level of subsidies from the government for ailing airlines, steel manufacturers and other industrial actors, legal text drafted by Barnier emphasises the need for the UK to apply the EU’s own rule book and “harmonise” with Brussels as policies develop.

The document stipulates that where there are disputes on state aid rules, the European court of justice in Luxembourg will be the arbiter of EU law and issue binding rulings to the British courts to implement.

Where Brussels devises entirely new rules on state aid, whether to industry or farmers, a new joint committee will have to sit within six weeks and “add the new act or provision” or the EU would be free to implement “sanctions” that “have a real and deterrent effect”.

The draft treaty also insists that the UK will have to guarantee “non regression” on EU regulations on labour and social protection despite its withdrawal from the bloc.

On environmental standards, the EU insists that targets set by Brussels will also apply to the UK after it leaves the single market and customs union at the end of the year.

The regulations referred to in the document include industrial emissions, air quality targets and nature and biodiversity conservation.

The document also refers to harmonisation on “health and sanitary safety in the agricultural and food sector”, in a sign that the EU will resist changes to UK laws to allow the production of chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef.

The US government is likely to demand access to the British market for such produce, which would undercut UK farmers unless they too could change their practices.

The next round of negotiations between the two sides, which started last month, was due to take place next week but face-to-face talks in London have been cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

EU and UK officials are expected to take part in stripped back talks through videoconference calls. Failure to agree a deal by the end of the year will require both sides to implement tariffs and quota conditions on goods being traded between the UK and the EU.


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