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David Frost: Johnson govt won’t sign up to EU rules after Brexit

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  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator sets out the UK’s hardline trade position in a speech on Monday.
  • David Frost warned the European Union that the UK would not sign up to EU rules in any future trade agreement.
  • He reiterated Johnson’s position that Britain would rather not have a trade deal than follow Brussels rules.
  • “That isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure — it is the point of the whole project,” Frost said in a lecture on Monday night.
  • British and EU negotiators will begin talks over a free trade deal next month.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned the European Union that Britain will neither follow EU rules nor extend the transition period in a hardline speech setting out the UK government’s position on future trade.

David Frost, who is leading the UK government’s talks with Brussels, delivered a lecture on Monday evening at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, in which he accused EU figures of missing “the point” of Brexit. 

He said the UK would not under any circumstances sign up to EU rules in a trade deal with Brussels, and would prefer to trade with the EU without a trade agreement, reiterating the message from Johnson’s speech on trade last month.

“It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us — to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has,” Frost told the university on Monday.

“So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so-called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing.”

“That isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure — it is the point of the whole project,” he said.

David Frost

David Frost.

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo


Frost also relayed Johnson’s position that the government is prepared to trade with the EU on “Australia-style terms” if Brussels continues to insist on the UK signing up to EU rules, or what is known as a “level playing field.”

Australia does not have a free-trade agreement with the EU, and trades largely on World Trade Organization terms. Business leaders have warned that this would create swathes of new border checks and cost billions of pounds.

However, Frost said the UK government was aware of the “trade-offs” involved in this approach to trade with Brussels.

“We are clear that we want the Canada free-trade agreement-type relationship which the EU has so often said is on offer — even if the EU itself now seems to be experiencing some doubts about that unfortunately,” Frost said.

“If those doubts persist, we are ready to trade on Australia-style terms if we can’t agree a Canada-type FTA.”

“We understand the trade-offs involved — people sometimes say we don’t but we do — and we will be setting out in written form next week actually how we see the shape of the future relationship in more detail.”

He added: “That’s also why we will not extend the transition beyond the end of this year. At that point we recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it?”

British and EU negotiators will begin talks on a possible free trade deal next month. Both sides aim to reach some sort of agreement by the end of the year, when the 11-month Brexit transition period comes to an end.

However, several senior EU figures including Phil Hogan, the bloc’s head of trade, have expressed doubts that something can be agreed in so short a timetable.

Boris Johnson EU leaders



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Frost’s speech highlighted the gulf between the UK and EU’s negotiating positions ahead of talks getting underway.

Raoul Ruparel, a former Brexit adviser in the UK government, tweeted that the speech “should be a clear challenge to those in EU (& UK) who think the Govt will eventually bow to their view of economic rationality.”

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, on Sunday predicted that negotiators would “rip each other party” once talks get underway.

Stewart Hosie, the Scottish National Party’s trade spokesperson, said Frost’s speech was a “worrying sign” of where Johnson’s government was taking the country’s relationship with the EU.

“Rather than working to maintain the high standards in place in the EU, the Tories’ insistence on diverging on rules risks a race to the bottom in standards that will hit our businesses and vital industries,” he said.

“With trade talks set to get underway, the UK government must step back and put the country’s interests ahead of the Tories’ narrow self-interest.”

“The UK government must commit to maintaining the high standards and rule out a devastating No-Deal Brexit.”

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