Speaking at an online event, the European Commission president said she would not sanction a future relations pact without a level playing field that could keep Britain bound by bloc standards. But she hinted at a mechanism that would allow the UK to deviate from the EU rule over time. Ms von der Leyen said: “Normally, when you negotiate a free trade agreement, two different entities try to come together and exploit what they are doing together. Here, almost half a century, our British friends have been fully integrated into the single market. And unfortunately, we have to come to an agreement where we discuss how to unravel, how to divide, while being closer to better together.
“If the companies that our British friends want to enter the single market without quotas, and without tariffs. So full access to the single market, then it must be clear that everyone in the single market is playing by the same rules. This is what we call a level playing field. ”
The bloc’s top official said tariff-free and quota-free access would depend on Mr Johnson signing “non-regression” clauses in areas such as state aid, environmental standards and rights. workers.
The PM could one day choose to deviate from the bloc’s settlement, but that would mean the introduction of trade levies if the move is deemed to distort competition between EU and UK companies.
“How are we replicating this on both sides so we can be clear there is no backsliding on what we have achieved and there is fairness over time so that indeed access can be done?” without quota or tariff and all companies respect the single market by the same rules.
“We want a deal, but not at any cost. We’re well prepared for both scenarios, so we’ll see how things go in the next few days. ”
France is blocking progress by refusing to abandon its requests for quasi-equal access to British coastal waters after Brexit.
Downing Street insists its negotiating position will not change.
Prime Minister’s spokesman Mr Johnson said: “We want to try to achieve a free trade agreement as quickly as possible. But we have been clear that we will not change our negotiating position and we have clearly defined that position. ”
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Insisting the bloc should focus on getting a deal rather than speeding up plans for a nodeal Brexit, she urged European capitals to help Mr Barnier negotiate a compromise acceptable for the rules in fisheries and state aid.
Ms Merkel said: “Michel Barnier negotiated and Ursula von der Leyen was increasingly involved in the negotiation process. We therefore hope that we will draw a positive conclusion from it.
“Some Member States are starting to get impatient. There isn’t much time left. Governance and equal opportunities play an important role.
“Perhaps for some the most tangible are the concrete issues, from a British point of view access to energy markets, from our point of view access to UK fishing grounds. ”