Brussels views its free-trade agreement with Canada as the only realistic model for post-Brexit trade with the U.K., scotching British Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of a far broader bespoke deal.
According to framework documents from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier seen by POLITICO, London’s insistence on quitting the single market and customs union means that a basic EU-Canada-style deal is the only option.
Sliding back onto a Canada-style trading relationship would be a big failure for May, who has acknowledged that the Brussels-Ottawa arrangement is greatly inferior to Britain’s current position in the EU’s single market.
In her Florence speech in September, May said: “Compared with what exists between Britain and the EU today, [a Canada-style arrangement] would nevertheless represent such a restriction on our mutual market access that it would benefit neither of our economies.”
While the EU-Canada deal slashes tariffs, it is nowhere close to the single market on regulatory harmonization and freedom of movement. Trade in food is restricted by quotas and phytosanitary controls.
The documents, provided to Barnier’s team on Tuesday for a “preparatory discussion” on the “framework for the future relationship,” reveal Barnier’s concerns over why Britain’s market access will have to be limited.
The documents explain the U.K.’s demands for “regulatory autonomy” as well as its failure to obey European Court of Justice rulings mean it is “not compatible” as a partner within the EU framework.
The papers explain that taking in “single market arrangements in certain areas” or managing the “evolution of our regulatory frameworks” would not work within EU laws. This means that the remaining model would have to be in line with a “standard FTA.”
This could be a particularly severe blow to Britain’s status as Europe’s financial capital. The document says the FTA model would provide “no direct branching in sectors like financial services” and that there are only “limited EU commitments to allow cross border provision of services.”
Hans von der Burchard contributed to this article.