LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union and Britain clashed over a post-Brexit trade deal on Monday, with the two sides setting out very different visions of a future relationship that could result in the most distant of ties.
Almost three days since Britain officially left the EU, both sides presented their aims, with the question of whether London will sign up to EU rules to ensure frictionless trade shaping up to be the defining argument of the negotiations.
Both want to secure a trade agreement, but Britain has set a deadline of the end of the year and the EU has warned that if Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants a no-tariff, no-quota deal, he will have to sign up to its rules to ensure fair competition.
Johnson said he would not do that, in a speech that harked back to Britain’s past trading successes, promising that his government would again be a champion of free trade and jealously guard his country’s new-found “sovereignty”.
“Humanity needs … some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with his cloak flowing as the supercharged champion of the right of populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other,” he said, referring to Superman’s alternate character.
Saying Britain was ready “for that role”, he went on to say London was ready to accept an agreement with the EU, the world’s biggest trade bloc, similar to that enjoyed by Canada, whose rules are not aligned with those of the EU.
“There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules,” Johnson said.