UK sets June as first EU talks deadline

The UK government is willing to walk away from negotiations with the European Union in June unless a "broad outline" of a trade deal has been agreed by then.

city of London centre of trade
On Thursday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove set out the government's agenda for post-Brexit negotiations due to start with Brussels next week, by saying the UK planned to reach a "comprehensive free trade agreement" by the end of the year.

Gove gives warnings

But he adds, "In a pursuit of a deal, we will not trade away our sovereignty. We respect the EU's sovereignty, autonomy and distinctive legal order and we expect them to respect ours."We will not accept nor agree to any obligations where our laws are aligned with the EU or the EU's institutions, including the Court of Justice."Mr Gove says the aim is to reach a broad agreement ahead of the EU Council summit in June but negotiating guidelines issued by the government added, "If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the government will need to decide whether the UK's attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion."
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The guidelines go on to state that if progress on a free trade agreement cannot be made, the UK will rely on World Trade Organisation terms for trading with the EU.Mr Gove says that, in addition to a trade deal with the EU, the UK intends to secure agreements on fisheries, internal security and aviation.

31 December 2020 independence

"We're confident that those negotiations will lead to outcomes which work for both the UK and the EU, but this House, our European partners and above all the British people should be in no doubt - at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom will fully recover its economic and political independence," he says.Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, responds, "We take note of the UK's mandate published today and will discuss our respective positions on Monday. We will stick to all our prior commitments in the Political Declaration. We want an ambitious and fair partnership with the UK in the future."

How the negotiations should be shaped

Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, says, “The government has set out clear political guidelines for the Brexit negotiations. Within these, it has to be ambitious in pursuing the space where market access can be maximised for businesses."This is not a one-size-fits-all negotiation, the benefit of regulatory alignment does vary by sector, so the government must show that it is prepared to work with business on the detail.“Adjustment is inevitable, but it has to be delivered in a balanced way, with cooperation on implementation to ensure any changes are sustainable. Given that uncertainty over our trading status with the EU continues to be a top concern facing directors, getting this balance right is critical to 'Global Britain' succeeding at the first hurdle.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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