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Post-Brexit trade will be ‘complicated and costly'

The Connexion, Mar 7

The future free trade agreement between the EU and UK ‘will make trade more complicated and costly for all of us’ because ‘this is the essence of Brexit’, said EU Council president Donald Tusk on Wednesday.

Speaking in Luxembourg, Mr Tusk said that the EU would “enter the negotiations of the future relations with the UK with an open, positive and constructive mind, but also with realism”.

His remarks come ahead of an EU Council summit on March 22-23 at which the EU leaders are expected to adopt draft negotiating guidelines for the next phase of talks about the ‘future relationship’, including trade.

The EU has said that no full deal on trade will be signed before Brexit, however it intends that a ‘statement of political intent’ outlining wishes for the future relationship will be attached to the exit treaty (which itself will cover vital matters including expat rights).

Mr Tusk said the EU “does not wish to build a wall between the EU and Britain”. “On the contrary, the UK will be our closest neighbour and we want to remain friends and partners also after Brexit. Partners that are as close as possible.”

However, he said the hard Brexit chosen by the UK government inevitably means things cannot be the same as before. He said there would be a free trade arrangement (FTA), such as the EU recently made with Canada, and he said they should aim for it to make provisions concerning all areas and to offer zero tariffs on goods.

He said it should also “address services”, but did not specify how far it should go towards the full free access to EU markets for British financial firms that the UK wants.

However, he added: “This positive approach doesn't change the simple fact that because of Brexit we will be drifting apart. In fact, this will be the first FTA in history that loosens economic ties, instead of strengthening them.”

In negotiating the deal, he said the EU will bear in mind two tests:

A balance of rights and obligations – the UK cannot have the same benefits as Norway but only the same (lesser) obligations as Canada.
Integrity of the single market – members of the single market cannot pick and choose sectors they like and accept ECJ jurisdiction only where it suits their interests; the same will apply to the UK.
Mr Tusk said: “A ‘pick and mix’ approach for a non-members state is out of the question. We are not going to sacrifice these principles. It’s simply not in our interest.”

However, he proposed that the EU and UK should continue in common efforts against terrorism and international crime, and he invited the UK to take part in EU programmes in research and innovation, education and culture.

Mr Tusk said he also wished to “avoid that particularly absurd consequence of Brexit that is the disruption of flights between the UK and the EU” and wished to start discussions on this as soon as possible.

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