UK refuses to align closely with EU rules, Johnson said

Boris Johnson will issue a direct warning on Monday that the UK will refuse close alignment of rules and reject the jurisdiction of the European courts in any trade deal as EU leaders prepare to give his plans a frosty reception.

In a bullish speech setting out the government’s negotiating position, the prime minister will set out his vision for future relations with the trading bloc and reject accepting similar rules over competition, welfare spending and environmental standards.

“There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules,” he will say.

His vision clashes with the mandate of EU leaders, which is due to be set out on the same day and is expected to aim at maintaining a level playing field.

Labour has accused the government of indulging in “sabre-rattling” as both sides set out their initial negotiating positions and embark upon 11 months of intense talks.

In the speech, to be delivered to ambassadors and businesspeople on Monday morning, Johnson will argue in favour of either a Canada-style or Australia-style agreement that will respect the autonomy of the UK courts.

“The choice is emphatically not ‘deal or no deal’. The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s – or more like Australia’s. In either case, I have no doubt that Britain will prosper. And of course our new relationship with our closest neighbours will range far beyond trade.

“We will seek a pragmatic agreement on security, protecting our citizens without trespassing on the autonomy of our respective legal systems,” he will say.

Senior government sources concede that the stakes are high if they fail. If there is no deal by 31 December, the UK will face a “cliff-edge” no-deal Brexit.

References by Johnson’s government to “the Australian model” in briefings to journalists have bemused EU officials because no deal has yet been agreed with the Canberra government.

An EU source said the government appeared to have decided that Australia “sounds much more popular than the WTO”, but “there is no such thing as an Australia-style agreement”.

Earlier, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, had said that following EU rules after 2021 “just ain’t happening” and insisted that it was wrong for the EU’s senior negotiator to claim that goods entering Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be subject to extra paperwork once Britain leaves the post-Brexit transition period.

Asked on Sky News on Sunday whether Michel Barnier was wrong to say there would be border checks on goods moving between the EU and the UK, the foreign secretary said this was up to the EU.

“Yes, he is wrong if the EU lives up to its commitments on its side both in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

“We are entering into these negotiations with a spirit of goodwill. But we are just not doing that other stuff. The legislative alignment, it just ain’t happening,” he said.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said Raab’s words were part of a showy and childish attempt to set out the government’s position in the trade negotiations. “It is ‘sabre-rattling’ … It is a bit puerile,” he told the Andrew Marr Show.

EU figures have expressed concern at the position of the Johnson government.

Dacian Ciolos, a former prime minister of Romania who leads the Renew group in the European parliament which includes Emmanuel Macron’s party, warned against an outbreak of aggressive posturing ahead of the negotiation.

“We are now at a low moment in this relationship and, unfortunately, Brexit puts barriers between us.

“The extent to which the EU can be open and make concessions will depend strongly on the extent to which the British government will be willing to cooperate. But, obviously, a deal can never be as good as EU membership,” he said.

The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said the EU could reach a sector by sector deal with the UK if a comprehensive Brexit agreement was not reached by Johnson’s December deadline.

But he told the BBC it would be a “second-class outcome” and mean that negotiations could drag on for years.

“If it isn’t possible to have a comprehensive deal then the back-up plan would be sectoral agreement or some temporary agreements that would buy us more time while we negotiate the comprehensive agreement, but that to me is an inferior outcome,” he told Marr. “And imposition of bureaucracy, checks, tariffs and quotas, that is not good for anyone.”

EU officials are expected to insist on protecting their companies from a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and environmental standards. “The EU understands the UK is not wanting to be a rule taker. But that works both ways, we also have a demanding public,” an EU source said.

Brussels has asked the UK to sign up to EU standards on workers’ rights, environmental protection and state aid in order to get zero-tariffs, zero-quotas on trade in goods.

Last October, Johnson agreed that the future relationship with the EU “must ensure open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field”.

In a further development, Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, expressed concern that a refusal to consider alignment could cause a border down the Irish Sea.

As part of the withdrawal agreement, Johnson agreed that the six counties would continue to follow single market rules to avoid border checks along the border with Ireland.

It means, if Britain has rules that differ from Brussels post-2021, then cargo travelling into Northern Ireland from Great Britain could face inspections.

In comments made to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, the DUP leader Foster said it was “difficult to see” how checks could be avoided since ministers intended to “diverge away from single market regulations, whilst Northern Ireland remains within the single market”.

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