04:53 GMT26 February 2021
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    The UK and EU are set to begin negotiating a new future relationship in March, as Britain is about to finally withdraw from the bloc on Friday, 31 January, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson eying the ambitious deadline of 31 December 2020 for the completion of the contentious talks with Brussels.

    With the UK set to finally exit the EU on Friday, 31 January, propelling the country into a transition period until the end of December, reports have surfaced that Brussels will attempt to demand that European Court of Justice judges be able to rule on any post-Brexit agreement with the United Kingdom, reports The Times.

    According to the newspaper, a leaked internal diplomatic document suggests the EU wants to be able to make rulings on trade, fishing and security, thus gaining an edge ahead of trade talks set to begin sometime in March.

    © CC0 / Pixabay

    The leaked document, briefed to European diplomats, reportedly states that the “UK is a partner like no other”, citing its “geographic proximity... economic interdependence and connectedness”, and that ECJ must have the power to rule if the UK has breached any rules it has signed up for, to “ensure consistent interpretation of the agreement and secure the role of the (ECJ) in this respect”.

    It is said the document is “seeking inspiration” from the ECJ’s significant enforcement role as laid down in the government's withdrawal treaty.

    Bexiteers’ Fury

    The reports sparked the ire of Brexiteers, who blasted the suggestion that Brussels would make significant demands linking Europe's markets to judicial supervision by European Court of Justice judges.

    It is reported that Brexiteers have warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson against acceding to EU plans, calling on him to "walk away" from such talks.

    Former cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith was quoted as saying:

    “We have simply got to say no… Nobody in their right minds would accept this and if they continue to pursue this then we simply have to walk away.”

    Downing Street sources were cited as also rejecting the proposal, slamming the European court as “by very definition not a neutral arbiter”.

    The current news comes as the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK's insistence on moving away from Brussels-made laws and the scrutiny of its judges was likely to render trade without some form of customs checks "impossible".

    "The UK has chosen to become a third country, to leave the single market and the customs union, to leave behind the EU's framework of common rules, common supervision and common Court of Justice. It has chosen to create two regulatory spaces. This makes frictionless trade impossible. It makes checks indispensable," Barnier said in Belfast.

    Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also suggested Brussels would seek concessions on fishing in exchange for the UK's financial services industry:

    "What happens in these things is trade offs. You may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services," Varadkar was quoted by the BBC as saying.

    Responding to the comments, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman said:

    "We are going to be taking control of our fishing waters. We have been clear on that."

    Earlier, speaking about the UK’s future trading relationship with Brussels in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper on Saturday, 18 January, UK Chancellor Sajid Javid warned businesses that “there will be no alignment” with EU rules after Brexit.

    “We will not be a ruletaker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year,” said Javid.

    A desire to see the UK no longer be subject to rules laid down by Brussels had spurred the Brexit vote to a large degree, with the Vote Leave Campaign vowing that Britain would be able to have control of who fishes in its territorial waters upon exiting the EU and the common fisheries policy (CFP).

    Polling card used in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK
    © Flickr / Abi Begum
    Polling card used in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK

    Britain will cease to be a member of the EU after 11pm on 31 January, as a new "taskforce" headed by Johnson's chief Europe adviser, David Frost, will lead the UK's trade negotiations instead of the Department for Exiting the European Union.

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the 2021 deadline for the acquisition of a trade deal with the EU, insisting that an agreement should be hammered out by the end of December or the UK will leave the transition period effectively on no-deal Brexit terms.


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