The British government is to outline its vision for a trade deal with the EU in Brussels on Monday, as both sides crank up the rhetoric ahead of the start of formal post-Brexit talks next month.
The UK is expected to contest the bloc’s demands that Britain stick closely to EU rules in exchange for access to European markets. It comes as France has warned that the two parties risk tearing themselves apart during the talks.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, is due to set out the British position in a speech at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He is thought likely to call for a deal similar to those the EU has with countries such as Canada, Japan and South Korea.
Boris Johnson’s government argues that they contain only loose demands on alignment with EU rules and standards in areas such as workers’ rights and the environment, and yet benefit from virtual tariff-free access to Europe. Closer alignment would be tantamount to “Brexit in name only”, it says.
But Brussels is likely to take a tough stance on interpreting the commitment to maintain a “level playing field” over future competition. It argues that the UK’s proximity and degree of integration to Europe means special circumstances apply – and means alignment will be necessary in return for a zero-tariff, zero-quotas deal.
On Sunday the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian used strong language while predicting that tense negotiations lie ahead.