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Government claims EU demands are 'ridiculous' as post-Brexit trade talks loom

3 min read

Boris Johnson will refuse to agree to what he sees as "ridiculous" demands from the European Union to align with the bloc's rules on workers' rights and tax in order to strike a trade deal.

Number 10 is reportedly objecting to a string of objectives in Brussels' draft negotiating mandate after a line-by-line review by the UK's chief negotiator David Frost.

Mr Frost, the Prime Minister's Europe adviser, is due to head to Brussels on Monday night to give a talk on the future relationship Britain is seeking with the bloc.

The two sides need to thrash out an agreement by the end of the year, when the UK's closely-aligned transition period with the EU expires.

But, ahead of the trip, senior Conservatives again made it known that they would not agree to calls for a "level playing field" on areas including workers' rights, taxation, state subsidies, environmental protections and health and safety.

They instead argue that the UK should be given a free trade deal on the existing Canada model, mirroring that country’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which scraps tariffs on most types of goods.

If that cannot be agreed, Britain has said it will accept an arrangement similar to Australia's, which is still in the process of negotiating a free trade deal with the EU and is subject to high tariffs in some areas while it trades on World Trade Organisation terms.

A Conservative source told the Sunday Telegraph: "The UK will take a proactive position in the future trade discussions.

"We have a strong mandate to get Brexit done, get a future trade deal and focus on sovereignty.

"This is in line with EU trade deals they have done before - and we expect the same to apply to us."

One senior Tory meanwhile branded the EU's draft mandate "ridiculous", with the Sun on Sunday reporting that British ministers believe EU standards fall below those of the UK in some key areas.

But the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said earlier this month that whether or not the UK chooses to follow bloc’s rules and standards will be "fundamental for the level of ambition of our future relationship".

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has already warned Britain it "cannot and will not" enjoy the same access to the bloc's markets as before without close alignment.

"With every decision, comes a trade-off," she said last month.

"Without the free movement of people, you cannot have the free movement of capital, goods and services.

"Without a level playing field on environment, labour and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world's largest single market.

"The more divergence there is, the more distant the partnership will be."

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