Post Brexit: Johnson to detail tough stance in EU trade talks

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Monday outline a hardline stance in post-Brexit negotiations with the European Union, arguing Britain does not need to follow various EU rules to strike a trade deal.

In a keynote speech detailing his vision for the country’s future, days after its historic departure from the bloc following nearly half a century of membership, Johnson is to say he will seek a “pragmatic agreement”.

The British premier will note London has been told in earlier divorce talks with Brussels that it has the option of an ambitious trade deal, “which opens up markets and avoids the full panoply of EU regulation”.

“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,” Johnson is set to say, according to excerpts of the address released by his Downing Street office.

“The UK will maintain the highest standards in these areas — better, in many respects, than those of the EU — without the compulsion of a treaty and it is vital to stress this now,” he will add.

Johnson also insists that if that type of agreement, similar to one the EU recently struck with Canada, is not possible then Britain would opt for a less comprehensive trade deal.

“The choice is emphatically not ‘deal or no-deal’,” he will say.

But in a sign of the potentially fraught nature of the high-stakes talks, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar urged London on Sunday to “tone down” what he called “nationalistic rhetoric”.

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Britain should avoid repeating the past mistake of insisting on “rigid red lines” which “makes it hard to come to an agreement”, he said.

– ‘Infuriated’ –

Late on Friday, Britain ended almost half a century of often reluctant membership of the European Union, an organisation set up to forge unity among nations after the horrors of World War II.

Upon leaving, the UK immediately entered an 11-month transition period agreed as part of the divorce, during which there will be little change in practical terms.

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