The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator has insisted that Britain must be able to set laws that suit itself when the country fully breaks away from the EU.
David Frost used a major speech in Brussels on Monday to state that Britain will not accept EU supervision to create a “level playing field”.
The speech came after France warned the two sides would “rip each other apart” in trade talks ahead of the UK’s scheduled exit from a Brexit transition period at the end of this year.
Mr Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, used a lecture to students and academics at the Universite libre de Bruxelles to say: “We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country.
“It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us – to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has.
“So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so-called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing.
“It isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure – it is the point of the whole project.
“That’s also why we will not extend the transition beyond the end of this year.
“At that point we recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it?
“In short, we only want what other independent countries have.”
Mr Frost said the UK is seeking an “open and fair” arrangement with the EU based on free trade agreement (FTA) precedents.
He said: “Boris Johnson’s speech in Greenwich two weeks ago set out a record of consistently high standards of regulation and behaviour in the UK, in many cases better than EU norms or practice.
“How would you feel if the UK demanded that, to protect ourselves, the EU dynamically harmonise with our national laws set in Westminster and the decisions of our own regulators and courts?
“The more thoughtful would say that such an approach would compromise the EU’s sovereign legal order; that there would be no democratic legitimacy in the EU for the decisions taken in the UK to which the EU would be bound; and that such regulations and regulatory decisions are so fundamental to the way the population of a territory feels bound into the legitimacy of its government, that this structure would be simply unsustainable: at some point democratic consent would snap – dramatically and finally.
“The reason we expect, for example, open and fair competition provisions based on FTA precedent is not that we want a minimalist outcome on competition laws.
“It is that the model of an FTA and the precedents contained in actual agreed FTAs are the most appropriate ones for the relationship of sovereign entities in highly sensitive areas relating to how their jurisdictions are governed and how their populations give consent to that government.
“So if it is true, as we hear from our friends in the (European) Commission and the 27 (member states), that the EU wants a durable and sustainable relationship in this highly sensitive area, the only way forward is to build on this approach of a relationship of equals.”
The comments came after French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian predicted a bruising battle on a post-Brexit deal.
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, he made clear that Brussels will defend its interests when negotiations begin next month.
“I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart,” he said.
“But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.”
Mr le Drian, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, is the latest senior EU figure to warn that the negotiations will be difficult.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and chief negotiator Michel Barnier have both cast doubt on Mr Johnson’s aim to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year when the Brexit transition period runs out.
The EU has repeatedly warned that Britain cannot expect to enjoy continued “high-quality” market access if it insists on diverging from EU social and environmental standards.
There is expected to be a particularly tough fight over fishing rights, with the EU insisting continued access to UK waters must form part of any agreement.