Brexit: EU’s von der Leyen seeks ‘unique’ trade deal with UK

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Media captionUrsula von der Leyen says any deal would require obligations as well as rights

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU is “all set” for trade talks with the UK and seeks a unique and unprecedented deal.

“We will enter these negotiations with the highest ambition because good old friends like the UK and us shouldn’t settle for less,” she told MEPs.

But she said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have to accept a “level playing field” on rules and standards.

Mr Johnson has insisted the UK has “no need” to follow EU trade rules.

When the UK left the EU at the end of January, little changed in its relationship with the bloc as a Withdrawal Agreement is in place until the end of 2020.

The UK prime minister set out his preference this month for a deal similar to the EU-Canada trade agreement, but said if that did not work out then trade would have to be based on World Trade Organization rules.

He was adamant there was “no need” for a free-trade deal to involve accepting EU rules on competition, subsidies, social protection or the environment.

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Media captionPM: We want a Canada-style deal with the EU

“The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s – or more like Australia’s,” he told an audience in Greenwich, London.

The head of the Commission said the prime minister’s Greenwich speech on free trade was “music to our ears”, but she warned that an Australia-type deal, mentioned by Mr Johnson, did not exist. “We are just in the moment of agreeing with Australia that we must end this situation.” she said.

What’s the EU’s message to the UK on Brexit?

By Adam Fleming, BBC News, Strasbourg

In the European Parliament Ursula von der Leyen pointed to the UK’s existing high standards on climate change, maternity pay and the minimum wage.

Might the predicted row over commitments to fair economic competition – “the level playing field” delivered via the infamous “dynamic alignment” with EU rules – end up being a red herring? Like the argument about the UK’s financial obligations in the Brexit negotiations?

Image copyright AFP Image caption Ms von der Leyen seeks a “zero-tariff, zero-quota” trade deal for goods with the UK

It was left to Michel Barnier to deliver the home truths: the UK’s desire to end the transition period this year has left too little time for the negotiations,

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