"Economic and commercial fair play is not for sale!" Outcomes of the third Brexit negotiating round

Updated: May 17, 2020

The EU and the UK held their third round of talks. There was close to no progress. Here are the outcomes in the words of the UK and EU Chief Negotiators.

Key Quotes

"Our ambition is still to achieve a free trade agreement, with no tariffs or quotas on any goods. This would be a first in the history of EU FTAs.

Mr Barnier, the EU's Chief negotiator

Our trade relationship will never be as fluid as within the Single Market or a Customs Union. So everyone must prepare for the changes that will happen in any case at the end of the transition".

Mr Barnier, the EU's Chief negotiator,

“We very much need a change in EU approach for the next round"

David Frost, the UK’s Brexit negotiator, called out the EU for its “ideological approach”. This would hamper and progress towards a comprehensive trade deal.

Today there seems to be a real lack of understanding regarding the objective mechanical consequences of the British choice to leave. The UK will have to be more realistic. It will have to move beyond this lack of understanding."

Mr Barnier, the EU's Chief negotiator,

Additional Reading

There is an agreement that there is no agreement yet! Here are the comments of both negotiators and this is a tough read!

Highlights the remarks by Michel Barnier following Round 3 of negotiations for a new partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom:

Is the NO TARIFF- NO QUOTE objective at threat?

"I have even heard Michael Gove suggest that the UK might renounce to the objective of ‘zero tariffs, zero quotas', in the hope of being freed from level playing field obligations.
This proposal would amount to reinstating tariffs and quotas between us – something that hasn't been seen in decades. The Union does not want such an anachronism.
What's more, this approach would entail a detailed – and highly sensitive – negotiation of each tariff line. We saw recently, with Japan and with Canada, that this takes years".

Level Playing Field: Economic and commercial fair play is not for sale! "Despite its claims, the United Kingdom did not engage in a real discussion on the question of the level playing field – those economic and commercial “fair play” rules that we agreed to, with Boris Johnson, in the Political Declaration".

Open and fair competition is not a “nice-to-have”. It is a “must-have”.

"Even if we were to eliminate only 98% or 99% of tariffs, the EU would still demand the same strong Level Playing Field guarantees.

  • Because it is a core part of our modern trade policy;

  • because it is part of our requirements to address the big challenges that lie ahead, to protect certain common goods and to protect consumers;

  • and because we refuse to compromise on our European values to benefit the British economy".

Benefits of a Member State but without being a member

"It tells us it would be content with a “Canada-style” deal. But at the same time – and this is the real paradox of this negotiation – in many areas, it is demanding a lot more than Canada!

It is even looking to maintain the benefits of being a Member State, without the obligations.

I'm thinking, for example, of the UK's demands:

  • To maintain for UK service providers almost complete freedom of movement for short-term stays;

  • To obtain electricity interconnection mechanisms equivalent to the Single Market – “existing arrangements” as the UK says.

  • To continue to assimilate British auditors to European ones for the purpose of controls on audit firms;

  • To maintain a system for the recognition of professional qualifications that is as complete and broad as the one we have in the European Union;

  • To be able to co-decide with the Union on decisions relating to the withdrawal of equivalences for financial services - nother British request that goes far beyond the “Canada model”.

We are negotiating a trade agreement with a third country here – one that chose to become a third country. This is not an opportunity for the United Kingdom to “pick and choose” the most attractive elements of the Single Market.

Why can you not simply copy and paste other trade agreements - like S. Korea or Canada and that will be that?

"But our proposal testifies to our level of ambition – and this, with a neighbouring country that is highly interconnected with our Union; a former member with which it would be totally artificial to copy-paste a “best-of” from our existing free trade agreements with Canada, South Korea or Japan".

"We are looking into the future, not the past"

"Looking to the future also means taking into account that trade policy has evolved.

We are no longer in the 1970s, when the main purpose of trade agreements was to take down tariff walls. Our trade policy must be at the service of a new, modern and demanding vision, given the big changes underway – and climate change in particular.

It must protect social and environmental standards, and even help to raise them, in the general interest of citizens and consumers.

  • It must be underpinned by fair competition conditions, namely when it comes to state aid, social standards, or taxation.

It must also contribute to achieving common goals. The agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom must bring about positive change when it comes to protecting our environment and combatting climate change". Single governance framework "We were unable to make progress on the issue of the single governance framework that we believe is necessary to build a close and comprehensive partnership with this great neighbouring country, and thus guarantee its efficient and transparent implementation".

Lack of Ambition "We were also disappointed by the UK's lack of ambition in a number of areas that may not be central to the negotiation, but which are nonetheless important and symbolic. I'm thinking, for instance of the fight against money laundering".

No consultation with civil society?

  • "Why does the UK refuse to include consultation mechanisms with our European and British parliaments and with civil society in our future agreement?

  • This is what we have foreseen in our modern association agreements to ensure the greatest democratic legitimacy and enable parliamentarians, NGOs and social partners to make their voices heard. I know that the European Economic and Social Committee is very attentive to this issue".

No commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights

"The UK refuses to commit, in an agreement with us, to guarantees protecting fundamental rights and individual freedoms resulting from the European Convention on Human Rights, as agreed in the Political Declaration"

The UK wishing to lower current data protection standards?

"It insists on lowering current standards and deviating from agreed mechanisms of data protection – to the point that it is even asking the Union to ignore its own law and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice on passenger data (“PNR rules”). That is of course impossible."

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