On Wednesday, consent was given for Michel Barnier to resume talks with Britain on the future free-trade agreement, but some of the demands listed in an updated version of the EU negotiator’s official guidelines (detailed below) have mostly been rejected already by the UK Government.
The Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles have a home in the British Museum, and though they won’t have to be returned to Greece as part of any trade deal, the move from the EU to include a brand-new line of text calling for co-operation on “cultural objects” hasn’t found favour with Boris Johnson or his representatives.
Diplomats have apparently inserted the clause to crackdown on disputed items being sold through London auction houses.
“The Parties should, consistently with Union rules, address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin,” the document read.
Securing a free-trade agreement with the United States might not happen after Brussels unveiled plans to scupper Boris Johnson’s attempts.
Washington wants to open up agricultural markets in its own trade deal with Britain, but a new paragraph, inserted at the request of the French government, was published in the 46-page document earlier today.
EU negotiators will therefore insist that the Government maintains its ban on chlorinated chicken as the price for any deal.
“Health and product sanitary quality in the food and agriculture sector,” is part of the new clause in Mr. Barnier’s guidelines.
Perhaps the most contentious issue of all remains the fact that EU member states have instructed Mr. Barnier to secure continued access to British waters for their fishermen.
France have been supported by seven other members, including Ireland, and they’ve insisted the EU’s initial approach was drastically overhauled to make its demands more hardline.
Amelie de Montchalin, the French European affairs minister, has noted that: “We want a good agreement. We will not give in just because of the timing.
"There are issues that France considers essential: fisheries, trade agreement, level playing field and governance. We want reciprocal access to waters. British waters to European fishermen. The conservation of resources is important as well.
"We will protect the interests of Europeans and we want to be very clear and strong about the route that we want to follow.”
It’s also worth pointing out the scope of the new wording in the document, particularly as it doesn’t leave the UK with much room for manoeuvre.
“The objective of the provisions on fisheries should be to uphold Union fishing activities. In particular, it should aim to avoid economic dislocation for Union fishermen that have been engaged in fishing activities in the United Kingdom waters,” it states.
Level playing field
A ‘level playing field’ has been demanded by the EU.
Essentially, it would be put in place to ensure that the UK government couldn’t lower its standards with regards to state aid, taxation, environmental and workers’ rights standards.
“Union standards as a reference point,” is the wording that has been used in the updated version of the document.
“To that end, the envisaged agreement should uphold common high standards, and corresponding high standards over time.”
Tightening their hold further in this regard, it has even been suggested that Brussels wants European judges to oversee how the bloc’s rules and regulations are implemented in Britain.
It’s hardly a surprise that Brussels wants a robust method to “react quickly to disruptions of the equal conditions of competition.”
If the UK government are seen to be ignoring EU rules, the bloc wants the “enforcement and dispute settlement” mechanism to be able to dish out “appropriate remedies” against the UK, which could include slapping trade tariffs on Britain.
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