Industry in Britain and the European Union (EU) must work within a “level playing field” in respect of rules and regulations, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the press on 3 February as the UK and the EU have entered a post-Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December 2020.
Barnier said that any “ambitious” trading deal must ensure “consistency” with EU rules and standards as well as continued access to respective fishing waters.
“We don’t want that divergence [being followed by the UK] to become an instrument for unfair competition, whereby there would be disadvantages for EU industry”, Barnier was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “I can’t get embroiled in the details… but we’re going to be paying very close attention, and be very demanding, when it comes to the quality and the credibility of this level playing field”, he added.
Barnier noted that he was not calling for “alignment” with EU rules - which he understood would be a “red rag” to the Brits - but rather “consistency”. It is not yet clear what the difference is between the UK accepting “consistency”, on the one hand, or "alignment", on the other, with EU rules.
If these two requirements regarding standards and fishing access can be agreed upon then a wide-ranging and "ambitious" agreement can be secured, according to Barnier. Such an agreement would mean no tariffs, no fees, and no restrictions on goods entering the single market from the UK.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also addressed Britain's future trading relationship with the EU, on 3 February, saying that he would not seek to “undermine EU standards” and would not engage in commercial or environmental “dumping”. Dominic Raab, the UK’s Foreign Minister, told the BBC on the same day that Britain won’t be “aligning with EU rules" in any post-Brexit deal.