Saturday, 20 October, 2018

United Kingdom sets out stance for new trade ties with EU

Melinda Barton | 04 March, 2018, 03:47

In her much-anticipated speech where she was due to outline Britain's economic approach to its relationship with Brussels she said the UK's "decision to leave" the European Union has "caused anxiety" in Ireland.

The prime minister, weakened at home and under pressure overseas, said that Britain sought the "broadest and deepest possible agreement, covering more sectors and cooperating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today".

"I'm afraid this doesn't really advance us very much", said Michael Leigh, a former European Commission director general and senior fellow at the Geman Marshall Fund in Brussels.

She promised to commit to some regulations and minimum standards on goods in a bid to maintain close trade ties, while reserving the option for Britain to diverge in the future.

In an apparent warning to hardline Brexiteers to temper their expectations, Mrs May used the high-profile address to acknowledge that neither side would get "exactly what we want" in talks on the future UK/EU relationship.

After increasingly impatient appeals from European Union leaders for more detail about Britain's aims, Mrs May used her keenly awaited address at the Mansion House to put more flesh on the bones of her vision for "the broadest and deepest possible partnership" after Brexit.

May's Conservative government is divided on how closely Britain should align with the European Union, but a leading eurosceptic, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, was quick to back her speech.

However, May signaled that Britain was willing to make major compromises to secure an ambitious free trade deal.

However, pro-European Labour lawmaker Chuka Umunna said the prime minister had her "head in the sand". A border in the Irish Sea that would break up the UK's common market was also unacceptable, she stressed.

For the first time, the British prime minister admitted there are contradictions in her negotiating aims and raised the prospect of diluting her own red lines.

"The fact is that every Free Trade Agreement has varying market access depending on the respective interests of the countries involved", she said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks Friday in the Mansion House, the residence of the London mayor, concerning the country's exit from the Europ.

Manfred Weber, leader of the largest party in the parliament, and a key ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: "After what I have heard today I am even more concerned".

His successor, the Labour prime minister Tony Blair, said May's Brexit plan is "literally not going to happen" and lambasted those who dismiss the Northern Ireland border issue as insignificant.

While rejecting a new customs union governing the movement of goods, May highlighted the need to protect complex supply chains that had built up over the last four decades of EU membership.

I made this point in Munich in relation to our security relationship.

She confirmed the United Kingdom will seek to remain a member of several European agencies and will maintain similar regulations to the EU in order to enable "frictionless trade", but with the option of diverging at a later date if it chooses to do so.

May said the trade deal would require "reciprocal binding commitments" to ensure fair competition, as well as an independent arbitration mechanism, a clear rejection of the European Court of Justice.

She pledged that Brexit wouldn't jeopardise the peace process and said London and Brussels had a joint responsibility to find a solution on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.