February 27, 2020 / 4:25 PM / 3 months ago

Gaps between Britain and EU on eve of talks on post-Brexit ties

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain on Thursday published its negotiating position for talks starting with the European Union on Monday on their new, post-Brexit relationship from 2021.

Overall, it is seeking a much looser new relationship with the EU than the bloc would want.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator said the bloc would stick to a more ambitious outline of its future ties with London agreed last October in a political declaration accompanying the legal divorce treaty.

While the declaration was initially sought by then-Prime Minister Theresa May to lock in a close partnership with the EU, her successor Boris Johnson is pushing for more distant ties.

That has left the EU talking up the declaration, which is not legally binding, as an already agreed blueprint. London says it sets out aspirations and parameters for a future relationship based on a free trade agreement.

Here are the main points of contention on the eve of what are expected to be thorny talks.

FISHERIES

The EU wants to preserve its current access to fishing British waters. But London wants a new system, which would include an annual negotiation on dividing up the total catch, under which it could claim more.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Britain wants “legally binding” obligations on access to the EU financial market coupled with arrangements for maintaining trust as rules evolve. The EU has only spoken of “voluntary” cooperation in financial regulation.

The EU says any equivalence decisions would be unilateral, time-limited and on case-by-case basis. London says the EU system of granting market access is opaque and unreliable.

TRADE

Britain is seeking much looser trade ties than the bloc would want.

London wants no tariffs and no quotas but says it is also ready to fall back on more interventionist World Trade Organization rules if need be.

The EU is demanding “zero dumping” assurances as well and is averse to trading on WTO rules it says would be damaging for both sides.

It is pushing for a far-reaching level playing field including guarantees of fair competition on labour, environment, state aid and tax standards.

Britain refuses to be bound by the bloc’s rules, including those that would constrain its tax sovereignty in any way. It only wants to agree on commitments not to weaken protections on labour laws and standards.

SECURITY

Britain is rejecting an EU push to negotiate a broad and legally binding defence and security treaty.

JUNE CHECK-IN

The two have agreed to assess mid-year whether there is enough progress to seal a new deal by the end of the year. If there isn’t, the two sides’ plans diverge.

The EU would drop broader ambitions and focus on key areas like trade and fisheries to get as much agreed as possible.

London says it would go for a basic WTO system if by then there was no “broad outline of an agreement”, to be finalised by September.

editing by John Stonestreet

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