The government has laid out the future trade plans it will present to EU negotiators. Its statement starts with the affirmation that it ‘wishes to see a future relationship based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals’ – despite the fact that the EU is not a sovereign body – ‘for the benefit of all our peoples’.
It emphasises: ‘There is complete certainty that at the end of 2020 the process of transition to that relationship will be complete and that the UK will have recovered in full its economic and political independence. The government remains committed in all circumstances to securing all those benefits for the whole of the UK and to strengthening our union.’
But for the rest of this year, the statement questions whether the UK and the EU can agree ‘a deeper trading relationship on the lines of the free trade agreement the EU has with Canada, or whether the relationship will be based simply on the Withdrawal Agreement deal agreed in October 2019’, but reiterates that in either event the UK will definitely be leaving the single market and the customs union at the end of this year.
The statement promises that the government will work hard to achieve an agreement that respects the sovereignty of both parties but adds: ‘It cannot therefore include any regulatory alignment, any jurisdiction for the CJEU over the UK’s laws, or any supranational control in any area.’
Our government calls for a series of agreements covering all trade, fisheries, internal security and other matters, and technical agreements on areas such as aviation and nuclear co-operation. It adds: ‘These should all have governance and dispute settlement arrangements appropriate to a relationship of sovereign equals.’
The UK will develop our own policies in several areas such as immigration, environment and data protection and promises to main high standards in doing so. It says that the government will act on behalf of the whole UK family, including our Crown dependencies and overseas territories.
A free trade agreement, it says, should include no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions and we should be allowed to protect our industry from ‘unfair trading practices’. Regulatory barriers should be ‘addressed’ so that any that are unnecessary are reduced and customs officials should allow ‘smooth trade’ between the UK and the EU.
On services, the statement says this must be an ‘essential component’ of a free trade agreement with minimal barriers, and digital trade should be supported. In some areas, such as services to business and the professions, there could be the possibility of additional commitments.
Residents of both the UK and the EU should be free to undertake business trips across the Channel quite separately from the immigration system and each side should recognise professional qualifications gained in the other’s jurisdiction.
On financial services, any agreement between the UK and the EU should ensure that both sides ‘provide a predictable, transparent, and business-friendly environment for financial services firms’ and it is hoped that this will ensure financial stability and certainty for businesses. This should also provide obligations on market access and fair competition.
The statement adds: ‘Given the depth of the relationship in this area, there should also be enhanced provision for regulatory and supervisory cooperation arrangements with the EU, and for the structured withdrawal of equivalence findings.’
Transport by road through both the EU and the UK should be recognised by both sides and hauliers should have reciprocal rights, written into agreements and commitments. But the UK government warns that it will not agree to measures in these areas which go beyond those typically included in a comprehensive free trade agreement adding: ‘The government believes therefore that both parties should recognise their respective commitments to maintaining high standards in these areas; confirm that they will uphold their international obligations; and agree to avoid using measures in these areas to distort trade.’
Then the statement turns to the fish in the waters around the UK. It states that we will become an independent coastal state at the end of 2020 and as such, any agreement must reflect this reality. It has totally rejected the call by the French president for the bloc to have access to our fisheries for the next 25 years and has offered access to ‘fishing opportunities’ on a yearly basis, negotiated annually.
And it is in the UK’s and EU’s mutual interest to reach a ‘pragmatic agreement’ to provide a framework for law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters it says, although the statement makes it clear that European courts will not hold sway over autonomous matters in the UK.
Other areas of cooperation include air transport and safety and on air traffic management, and the UK is committed to smooth crossings as part of the border system, asking the EU to reciprocate. We are also ready to discuss cooperation on asylum, including family reunion, and illegal migration.
Turning to finance, the statement says we could participate in certain EU programmes, presumably at a cost although this is not mentioned, but only after the bloc has agreed its budget for this decade and as long as we get value for money.
Finally, the statement looks at areas where ‘early progress is a test of the constructive nature of the negotiating process’ – in other words, indicating that both sides are negotiating in good faith. These include trade in live animals and animal products and plant material, on which consensus is expected soon. A nuclear agreement is also on the cards for early settlement ‘given the implications for both sides of not doing so and the clear benefits of co-operation’.
Agreements on minor other matters are also planned.
This statement now needs to be compared to the scenario outlined by Michel Barnier on Monday.
The full statement can be seen here.