Britain on Thursday unveiled a tough negotiating mandate for talks with the European Union, underlining its desire for future economic and political independence that pits London on a collision course with Brussels.
After leaving the EU last month, Britain has until the end of the year to negotiate a trade deal and agreements on everything from fishing to transport, ending more than 40 years of close political and economic relations.
Having accepted that by leaving the EU’s customs union and single market British businesses will encounter new “frictions” in trade with the bloc, Britain has made its stance clear – regained sovereignty will trump the economy.
The two sides have until June to get what London’s negotiating team called “the broad outline of an agreement” to be finalised by September, otherwise Britain would head for an Australian-style agreement, a looser trading arrangement.
“On 31 December 2020 … the UK will fully recover its economic and political independence,” the British government’s mandate paper said.
“It is a vision of a relationship based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals, with both parties respecting one another’s legal autonomy and right to manage their own resources as they see fit.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the face of Britain’s campaign to leave the EU in 2016, has staked his reputation and possibly his future as leader on “getting Brexit done”, and has charged his negotiating team with securing a clean break with the bloc.
Both sides say they want a deal to be agreed before the deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, so that trade can flow, albeit with some additional checks, and that arrangements on issues such as aviation can roll over seamlessly.
But with neither side agreeing even the format of the talks which are due to take place on Monday, the negotiations look set to be a battle of wills with both the British and EU teams already accusing each other of breaking with earlier agreements.
Earlier this week, the EU said talks on post-Brexit ties would be “very hard” and could fail if London does not secure the new land border with the bloc on the island of Ireland as Brussels said was previously agreed.
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