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Downing Street hits out after EU says it will not agree post-Brexit trade deal 'at any cost'

3 min read

A war of words between Downing Street and Brussels has erupted after the EU said it would not agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK "at any cost".

Number 10 hit back after the the 27 remaining member states agreed their negotiating demands ahead of crunch talks next week.

Michel Barnier, the bloc's top negotiator, warned the EU would not waver over its demands for a "level playing field" on rules and regulations with the UK, as set out in the political declaration signed by Boris Johnson last year.

He said: "That political declaration describes very precisely the framework for a future relationship. That commits us on both sides, because that was a decisions both parties agreed to."

Mr Barnier added: "Of course, we will not conclude an agreement at any price."

The top EU official also revealed the first round of talks with British negotiatior David Frost would begin on Monday and last until Thursday.

But Mr Barnier warned the UK's refusal to extend the negotiation deadline beyond the end of the year meant both parties would have to act in "good faith" to avoid a potential hard exit.

"These will be complex, demanding, very difficult negotiations," he said. "In order to be successful, this will require trust and confidence...That is possible. It means negotiating in good faith."

"We just want the same"

Boris Johnson is set to outline the UK government's negotiating priorities on Thursday, but in a series of tweets, Number 10 said the EU must respect the UK's right to have "legal autonomy" after Brexit.

"The EU mandate stresses (reasonably) the importance of its own legal autonomy," they said. "We are equally determined to protect ours.  

"That is the key point of Brexit and is fundamental to the sustainable long-term relationship the EU says it wants with us.

"The EU has respected the autonomy of other major economies around the world such as Canada and Japan when signing trade deals with them.  We just want the same."

They added: "We agree the UK’s trade with the EU is significant. The US’s is on the same scale – yet that did not stop the EU being willing to offer the US zero tariffs without the kind of level playing field commitments or the legal oversight they have put in today’s mandate."

Meanwhile, German Europe Minister Michael Roth warned the UK to "keep its promises" in the upcoming talks.

He said: "My message is crystal clear to our friends in London - keep your promises, based on the protocal.

"The political declaration is key for us. It's the basis for further negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom and there are no doubts that we remain committed to the political declaration."

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