U.K. Rejects Mooted Brexit Compromise in Setback to EU Talks

By Joe Mayes

The U.K.’s chief Brexit negotiator rejected a potential compromise in its trade negotiations with the European Union, saying Britain isn’t prepared to accept tariffs if the country makes laws in its own interests.

“We could not leave ourselves open to such unforeseeable economic risk,” David Frost tweeted on Thursday, after media reports suggested the U.K. would sign up to the EU’s so-called level playing field, but the EU would reserve the ability to impose tariffs on Britain if the country opted to deviate from those rules. “The government will not agree to ideas like the one currently circulating,” he said.

Frost’s comments come ahead of a fresh round of talks with the EU next week. The two sides are trying to break an impasse that risks a damaging rupture at the end of this year. Without a trade accord, Britain and the EU would default to trading on World Trade Organization terms from Jan 1. 2021, meaning steep tariffs and an economic shock.

A key sticking point in the talks has been the EU’s demand that the U.K. commits to tracking the bloc’s rules in areas such as environmental and labor protections and state aid, for fear that Britain would become a competitor on its doorstep. The British government sees the request as inconsistent with the principle of sovereignty that it argues was at the core of the vote for Brexit.

“This needs to be a real negotiation and some of the EU’s unrealistic positions will have to change if we are to move forward,” Frost said. “U.K. sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.