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Top UK negotiator in Brussels to set out Brexit goals

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
The UK is reportedly preparing to reject several of the stipulations contained in a draft European Commission negotiating mandate. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost will on Monday travel to Brussels to outline his country’s vision for a post-Brexit trade deal.

In a rare public appearance, Frost is expected to tell attendees at Université Libre de Bruxelles that the UK wants to pursue a trade deal similar to those the EU has negotiated with Canada, Japan, and South Korea.

Frost is all but certain to underline the UK’s government’s desire to strike a deal with zero tariffs and quotas on goods, but with no alignment on standards, which is a key part of the EU’s current trade deal with Canada.

But no alignment on standards would also almost certainly result in the introduction of customs checks, additional paperwork, and other limits on what types of goods can be traded.

The UK is reportedly preparing to reject several of the stipulations contained in a draft European Commission negotiating mandate, including one that would force the UK to abide by EU tax and workers’ rights rules.

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The draft mandate insists that there must be “a level playing field” between the UK and EU to “prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages.”

Noting the “geographic proximity” of the UK to the bloc, the mandate says there should be “common high standards in the areas of state aid, competition, state-owned enterprises, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, and relevant tax matters.”

Frost will likely point out that the EU has largely tariff-free agreements with Canada, South Korea, and Japan, without any regulatory alignment of this kind.

While the UK officially left the EU on 31 January, it is currently in a time-limited transition period that concludes at the end of 2020.

Talks on the trading relationship that the UK will have with the EU are due to begin in March.

Frost’s visit comes after French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Sunday predicted that the UK and EU would “rip each other apart” during the negotiations.

“I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart,” the close ally of French president Emmanuel Macron said.

“But that is part of negotiations — everyone will defend their own interests.”