Brexit fury: EU’s ‘shopping list’ of demands savaged by Boris Johnson
And seeking to intensify the pressure in the talks, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier insisted the bloc would not conclude a deal with the UK “at any price”. Downing Street hit back by accusing the EU of reneging on an offer of a free trade deal based on Canada’s virtual zero-free tariff arrangement with the bloc.
In a warning shot ahead of the first round of talks next Monday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We will be taking back full control of our laws and our money January 1 next year.”
And in a swipe over the fishing issue, the spokesman added: “The UK didn’t vote twice to take back control of its fishing waters only to give that control up again.”
The angry diplomatic row erupted after the EU formally published a document setting out Mr Barnier’s mandate for the negotiations on a future cross-Channel trade deal.
Ministers and ambassadors from the 27 EU member nations approved the 46-page paper, setting out the EU’s aims from the talks, at a meeting of the bloc’s General Affairs Council in Brussels.
It called for EU standards to remain a “reference point” for the UK after the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of this year and proposed upholding “the existing reciprocal access to waters” for European fishing vessels.
Mr Barnier used a news conference in Brussels to pour scorn on Mr Johnson’s request for a Canada-style free trade deal.
He said fishing rights must be included in the deal or there “won’t be any agreement at all” and demanded “robust, level playing field safeguards” to avoid “unfair competitive advantages” in social, environmental, tax and state aid matters.
Mr Barnier said: “Let me remind you that most of the British processed fisheries products are traded, are exported, are sent to us, to the European market.
“So fisheries is part of a package as regards our trade relations, which are to be discussed, and that package is one you can’t break up. There will be no ambiguity at all around that.
“The trade agreement will be associated with a fisheries agreement and an agreement about a level playing field or there won’t be any agreement at all.”
Mr Barnier claimed the UK’s “proximity” to the continent meant a future UK-EU deal “cannot be the same” as the arrangement for Canada.
But Downing Street officials rejected his claims and rubbished the bloc’s demand for no change in fishing rules.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It doesn’t matter what the EU puts in its mandate as we become an independent coastal state on December 31, 2020.
“That means we automatically take back control of our waters and others’ right to fish in them under the UK convention of the law of the sea.
“This does not have to be negotiated nor will it be.
“Any access by non-UK vessels to fish in UK waters will be for us to determine.
“We are prepared to have a discussion about who fishes in our waters but we will be in control of those waters and it will be our determination to make.”
A Government source said: “We’ll take back control of our waters and then the sort of thing we’d be looking at is sitting down and reaching the kind of annual agreement that exists between a country such as Iceland or Norway and the EU. But the key point is that we would determine who fished in our waters and to what extent.
“What the EU is asking for is essentially the status quo and to carry on as if nothing whatsoever has changed.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman also savaged the EU backtracking over a free trade deal.
He said: “The EU is trying to use our proximity to add additional requirements for trade.
“The fact is that proximity is not a determining factor in other free trade agreements around the world, including some of the world’s largest economies.
“Neighbouring trade partners such as the US and Canada and Australia and New Zealand have not sought to impose the onerous commitments that the EU is now seeking to impose on the UK.”
The spokesman added: “Our position is that we want to get all of these discussions concluded as quickly as possible because we will not be extending the transition period. We will be taking back full control of our laws and our money on January 1 next year.”
The spokesman rubbished the EU’s demand for a “level playing field” of regulation between the UK and the bloc.
“Level playing field is an EU construct, it is not a piece of terminology which we use,” he said.
“We’ve been very clear on our commitment to discuss open and fair competition as part of negotiations but we will not accept any demands for the UK to follow EU law, just as we would not expect the EU to accept UK laws.
“We don’t agree that an open trading relationship based on a free trade agreement requires extensive level playing field commitments.
“We already start from a place of exceptionally high standards and are looking for commitments in this area like those of a normal free trade agreement.
“There are arrangements for fair and open competition in free trade deals that are proven to work. There is no reason or proximity to the EU should mean extra restrictions on trade.”
Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost will begin wrangling with Mr Barnier in the negotiations in Brussels next Monday. Future rounds in the talks will be held in both London and the Belgian capital.
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