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UK can’t have Canada-style Brexit deal, EU’s chief negotiator warns

3 min read

The UK will not be able to get a Canada-style Brexit deal, according to the EU’s chief negotiator.

Michel Barnier warned because of Britain’s “very particular proximity” to the bloc it cannot be offered similar terms to the one signed by Brussels and Ottawa in 2017.

It comes after David Frost, the UK’s leader in the talks on a future partnership, said the UK will not accept the EU’s call for “level playing field” regulation.

The head of the Prime Minister’s 'Taskforce Europe' said the move “fails to see the point of what we are doing” in becoming an independent country, as he laid out his Government’s position in a speech on Monday.

And his boss Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he wants to end up with an arrangement close to the one enjoyed by Canada and the EU, which has minimal tariffs on goods travelling between the two.

But speaking as he arrived at the European Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Barnier said of the talks: ”We remain ready to offer the UK an ambitious partnership.

"A trade agreement that includes in particular fishing and includes a level playing field, with a country that has a very particular proximity.

“A unique territorial and economic closeness, which is why it can't be compared to Canada or South Korea or Japan."

He said the EU remained "ready to work very quickly with the UK" on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement that Boris Johnson had re-negotiated at the end of last year.

But he disagreed with Mr Frost over his assertion agreeing to regulatory alignment in the UK-EU free trade deal would be undemocratic.

Mr Barnier said: “Truly not. It is a sovereign decision of the EU, it is a sovereign decision of the UK to cooperate.”

He added: “That is what Boris Johnson wrote in the political declaration.”

The comments came amid a re-opening of the row over the Elgin Marbles, after a leaked draft of a Brussels' negotiating mandate had reportedly declared Britain should "return unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin".

But the UK government said returning the ancient Greek sculptures, currently on display in the British Museum, to Greece will not be discussed during the upcoming trade talks.

On the artefacts, also known as the Parthenon marbles, a Downing Street source told the Guardian: “This is just not happening.

“And it shows a troubling lack of seriousness about negotiations on the EU side.”

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