UK Politics: UK doesn't have to follow EU rules for free trade deal, says Johnson

Boris Johnson has said the UK doesn't have to accept EU rules
Johnson insists 'Britain will prosper' after Brexit

Boris Johnson has dismissed the idea that the UK will need to abide by EU rules to seal a Canada-style free trade agreement with Brussels. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules,"

- Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson will give a speech today (Monday February 3) insisting that the UK doesn't need to adhere to rules set down by Brussels in order to secure a free trade agreement with the EU.

The prime minister is expected to use his address in London to call for a trade deal similar to Canada's, under which import tariffs on most goods have been removed.

It comes three days after the UK finally withdrew from the European Union at 23:00 GMT on January 31. The country is now in a transition period due to run until December 31 2020, giving negotiating teams from London and Brussels 11 months to finalise permanent trade arrangements.

'We have made our choice'

Johnson will say the UK has "often been told" that it must choose between two options where a trade deal with the EU is concerned.

The "Norway model" would give the country full access to the EU market, as long as it agrees to accept the bloc's rules and legal restrictions, while a Canada-style free trade agreement would open up markets and avoid strict EU regulations.

Johnson will say the UK has made its choice to go for a system similar to Canada's, and in the "very unlikely event" that negotiators fail to succeed, trade with the EU will have to be based on the existing withdrawal agreement.

"The choice is emphatically not 'deal or no deal'. The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada's - or more like Australia's," he will add.

"In either case, I have no doubt that Britain will prosper."

Johnson will insist there is "no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules".

The prime minister marked the UK's official withdrawal from the EU on January 31 with a televised address, in which he said this is "not an end but a beginning". He also acknowledged that many people "feel a sense of anxiety and loss" about Brexit.

On the EU side, Michel Barnier, the bloc's chief negotiator, is also expected to set out his approach to the forthcoming trade negotiations today.

'Level playing field'

Some EU figures have questioned whether the negotiating teams will be able to reach a mutually acceptable free trade agreement by the end of this year.

With regards to the UK's aim to secure a Canada-style deal, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said while this is possible, it's important to recognise that the UK and Canada are very different entities.

He pointed out that, as well as sharing seas and airspace, Britain and the EU have very closely integrated economies.

"If we are going to have tariff-free, quota-free trade with the UK, which is essentially what we have with Canada on almost everything, then that needs to come with a level playing field," Varadkar told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Other figures have been more critical of the approach being taken by Johnson's government.

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the prime minister's willingness to accept an agreement with the EU similar to Australia's equates to "no deal in all but name".

"Deliberately hollowing out our trade is nothing short of a scorched earth policy for our economy," he added.

Businesses will be looking for more clarity about the potential economic significance of the long-term trade agreement between the UK and the EU as negotiations progress throughout the year. The talks are due to begin in March.

On the first day of trading since Britain's official departure from the EU, the FTSE 100 had gained 0.35% by late morning on Monday. London's blue chip index fell by almost 4% over the course of last week.

In Asia, stock markets have been hit by growing fears about the coronavirus outbreak, with the Shanghai Composite Index plunging almost 8% on Monday.

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