Britain and the EU are set to present competing drafts of their future trade agreement as each side digs in ahead of the resumption of negotiations.
Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, on Monday confirmed Britain would “table” a full treaty text before negotiators meet in London on March 18 for their second round of talks.
While helping Britain assert its vision of a “Canada-style deal”, the decision to present a text will also give the UK a chance to reiterate its case that much of the future partnership can be based on elements from other trade agreements Brussels has with non-EU countries.
The EU has said a Canada-style deal — which will reduce border costs and friction — cannot be agreed with the UK unless Britain agrees to close alignment with Brussels regulations.
One ally of prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We are producing the text because we are ready to do it. It is not a bespoke trade deal — it is a text based on the precedent of deals the EU has already struck with sovereign third countries.” [...]
Downing Street has rejected suggestions that the coronavirus outbreak could force a rethink from Mr Johnson, who has repeatedly ruled out extending the tight timetable for finalising a trade agreement by the deadline of December 31. EU diplomats said that Brussels’ planning was that next week’s talks would still go ahead.
The decision to draw up a draft text was announced in a written parliamentary answer by Mr Gove. Two EU diplomats told the FT that they expected the European Commission to present its own draft text, although they said the timing was unclear. [...]
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