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EU: Neighbors don't need walls

March 7, 2018

EU-UK ties won't be "frictionless," but there's no need for a wall between neighbors, EU Council President Tusk has said. Still, his guidelines have poured cold water on British calls for a post-Brexit free trade deal.

British and EU flags
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/V. Mayo

Trade after Brexit will be 'complicated and costly' says Tusk

If Britain follows its own red lines in its departure from the European Union they will damage future UK-EU trade and "limit the depth" of any future economic partnership, the EU warned on Wednesday.

The warning comes days after May called for the "broadest and deepest possible agreement" to protect existing trade relations after Brexit occurs in March 2019.

Read more: Brexit: Theresa May calls for unprecedented UK-EU economic partnership

What the EU said:

  • In a document presented by Tusk, the EU said a post-Brexit trade deal would not make up for the British decision to leave the EU customs union and single market: "Being outside the customs union and the single market will inevitably lead to frictions [in trade]." This, it added, "will have negative economic consequences."
  • Britain cannot "cherry-pick" getting free access to certain EU benefits without having to pay the costs of being a fully fledged member of the bloc. Some British politicians have called for the UK to have unfettered access to parts of the EU internal market after the country's departure.
  • Any deal on financial services trade needs to reflect that Britain and the EU "will no longer share a common regulatory, supervisory, enforcement and judiciary framework."
  • Britain would also have to agree to safeguards in a deal to ensure London cannot undercut EU regulations after Brexit. May had promised in a speech on Friday that Britain would maintain high standards in line with those of the EU.

Why this matters: The EU guidelines provide an indication the bloc's priorities and red lines in upcoming talks on the future EU-UK relationship after Brexit. They also set the boundaries for what the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, can agree to when he negotiates with his British counterpart, David Davis.

May's speech: On Friday, May called for a bespoke free trade deal with the EU after Brexit. The prime minister admitted Brexit would change Britain's ability to trade with the EU when it leaves the customs union and single market. But she said relatively smooth trade was possible if Britain aligned its rules with those of the EU in some sectors and became an associate member in some EU agencies. She added that London should have the right to change its rules when it sees fit.

May calls for close UK-EU economic cooperation

Read more: EU warns Britain of 'unavoidable' trade barriers if it leaves customs union

EU eye-rolling: Barnier said he appreciated clarity over Britain's decision to leave the customs union and single market and the prime minister's recognition of trade-offs that come with being outside the bloc. But EU officials reportedly criticized the speech behind closed doors. British daily newspaper The Guardian published an internal EU analysis of May's speech on Monday that accused May of "double cherry-picking" by choosing the benefits of EU membership and third-country free trade deals without accepting the costs of either.

Read more: Brexit Diaries 30: Trade wars in the age of Brexit

What happens next: Leaders of the remaining 27 EU countries will decide on whether to accept the suggested guidelines at a March 22-23 summit. London and Brussels could start negotiating a free trade deal in April.

amp/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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