Michel Barnier says Britain must stay permanently bound to EU regulations after Brexit if it wants a trade deal

(Photo by Thierry Monasse/Corbis via Getty Images)
  • The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says a future trade deal should bind the UK to EU standards permanently.
  • Barnier was speaking to MEPs in a debate about the UK’s environmental regulations after it leaves the bloc.
  • He warned that the EU would be “extremely vigilant” in policing any attempts for the UK to cut its rules and regulations in a bid to gain a competitive advantage.

LONDON – The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator says he will insist on a “non-regression clause” in a future trade deal which ties Britain to the bloc’s strict standards after Brexit.

Michel Barnier said he welcomed a 25-year plan by environment secretary Michael Gove under which the UK pledged to be a “global champion” of green policies when it leaves the EU in March next year.

But he warned at the European Parliament on Tuesday that the EU would be “extremely vigilant” in policing any attempts by the UK to cut its rules and regulations in a bid to gain a competitive advantage over its neighbours.

He said a future trade deal “should include a non-regression clause and prevent the reduction of pre-Brexit standards.”

He added: “If we make sure our partnership is based on a level playing field … then we should have strongly mitigated the threat of Brexit to EU environmental policy.

“There will be no ambitions partnership without guarantees on fair competition, social standards, tax dumping and not least environmental standards.”

“My responsibility is to remain extremely vigilant”

Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a wide-ranging and comprehensive free-trade deal with the EU after Brexit which secures tariff-free access to its single market in goods.

But she is also seeking an arrangement based on “mutual recognition of standards” and “managed divergence,” a means by which the UK can set its own rules and regulations and diverge from them should it wish to.

Senior Brexiteers in Cabinet including Gove and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insist that “managed divergence” in some key areas is the only means by which May can reap the rewards of Brexit. However, senior EU negotiators have so far rejected that approach, dismissing it as “cherry-picking” and insisting the UK will only secure a free-trade deal if it complies fully with the EU’s strict regulatory framework after it leaves.

Barnier said he hoped Gove and his colleagues would clarify their position as Brexit negotiations continued.

He said: “Does the UK want to stay close to European regulatory model or distance itself from it?

“It’s a very important question because European regulatory model is underpinned by choices that are very dear to us.

“What we hear from the UK could be seen as reassuring … This is reflected in the UK’s proposed 25-year plan on the environment. This is welcome but my responsibility as EU’s lead negotiator is to remain extremely vigilant.”

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