UK faces major Brexit row as EU fires starting gun on 10 months of trade talks

The EU has set out its demands for a trade deal after Brexit – and it puts Brussels on a major collision course with Britain.

Brussels set out demands on courts, fishing and trading rules that could prompt fury as 27 nations agreed a road map for 10 months of frantic talks.

Their demands include continued access for EU fishing fleets in UK waters – and a continued role for European courts in mediating disputes between the UK and EU.

The document fires the starting pistol on talks for a trade deal between the UK and EU – which Boris Johnson wants to agree before current transition rules end on December 31.

A similar deal with Canada took seven years.

Boris Johnson's government today agreed its own document outlining demands for the future relationship – which is expected to be published on Thursday.

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The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “We look forward to engaging with the EU constructively following the publication of their mandate.

"The UK’s primary objective in negotiating is to make sure we restore our economic and political independence on Jan 1st 2021”

The EU document demands that Britain and the EU reach a "level playing field that will stand the test of time", with European Commission's top priority being protecting the EU's rules and orders.

This is a problem for the British government who believe that arrangements tying the UK to following or replicating EU rules cuts chances of being able to gain economic advantage by striking trade deals around the world.

Negotiations begin on Monday in Brussels, with a return leg expected in London in March.

The document says the union's priority in fisheries negotiations will be "to avoid economic dislocation for Union fishermen that have been engaged in fishing activities in the United Kingdom waters".

It says this means "continued reciprocal access…by Union and United Kingdom vessels to the waters of the Union and the United Kingdom".

This sets up a showdown with Downing St who have said regaining control of Britain's waters is a top priority.

Speaking last month a spokesman for the PM said:“Our position on fishing is not going to change.

“We are going to be taking back control of our coastal waters.

“The EU should be in no doubt about our determination to do that.”

Additionally the document calls for a wide ranging "level playing field" which potentially flies in the face of the UK government's number one demand which is that Britain regains "political and legal independence" in January next year.

Northern Ireland is likely to remain a key clash point for the future negotiaions.

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Yesterday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned that even a basic trade deal would be impossible by the end of this year if London does not honour border obligations under the withdrawal deal.

"If there isn't progress on the infrastructure needed…in the next few months, that's going to be a very worrying signal for whether or not it's going to be possible to conclude something sensible before the end of the year," Mr Coveney told reporters in Brussels.

"If that doesn't happen, it will damage significantly the prospects of being able to get even a bare-bones trade agreement…by the end of the year," he added.

Under the complex divorce settlement between the world's fifth-largest economy and its biggest trading bloc, Northern Ireland remains in the UK's customs area but tariffs would apply on goods crossing from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland if they were headed further to Ireland or elsewhere in the EU.

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