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AFP
February 26, 2020

EU, UK adopt stances for talks amid unease over Brexit treaty

World

AFP
February 26, 2020

BRUSSELS: The EU and Britain on Tuesday adopted their respective detailed negotiating rules ahead of talks on future ties amid European warnings that London must first implement the treaty easing the terms of Brexit.

The talks are to begin next week under a cloud of evaporating trust and incompatible demands. They are expected to go to the end of the year, corresponding to a transition period set out under the Brexit withdrawal agreement struck late 2019 that London has ruled out extending.

Britain left the EU at the end of January under that treaty and will be regarded as a non-EU "third country" in the negotiations even though it still trades like an EU member until the end of December. EU ministers in Brussels signed off on a mandate emphasising that Britain has to mirror European standards if it wants its goods to continue to have tariff-free access to the huge single market.

British ministers in London within hours approved their own approach. Prime Minister Boris Johnson´s spokesman said its goal "is to ensure we restore our economic and political independence on January 1, 2021" -- meaning Britain intends to set its own norms irrespective of EU rules.

"At the end of this year we will be leaving the (EU´s) single market and customs union and taking back control of our own laws and our own trade," the spokesman said. Talks will begin in Brussels on Monday, he said, with a second round pencilled in to take place in London later in March. The outcome of the talks is uncertain.

"The time pressure is immense and the interests are huge," Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said ahead of the Brussels meeting with counterparts. "It´s a very complicated treaty. It will be very hard work, a tough road ahead," he said.

Without an accord on the new relationship, trade between the EU and Britain would revert to a bare-bones arrangement under WTO rules.