UK alignment on EU standards price to pay for trade deal, say MEPs | Politics
The European parliament has called on Michel Barnier to keep Britain permanently tied to its employment, environment and competition laws as the price for maintaining free trade with the EU.
In a resolution adopted by 543 votes to 39, with 69 abstentions, MEPs said there needed to be “dynamic alignment” with EU standards across a range of issues.
As MEPs gave their seal of approval for the maximalist position, the European commission for the first time wielded its powers under the withdrawal agreement to order the British government to change its domestic law, despite the country having left the EU two weeks ago.
Under the terms of the transition period, during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union but none of Brussels’s decision-making institutions, EU law continues to be superior to UK national law.
The government was given two months by the commission to amend a levy on heavy trucks on which UK-registered drivers can get a discount. The EU’s executive branch said the levy discriminated against those based in member states.
It highlights the uncomfortable position for the government for the next 11 months, during which the country will be in what Boris Johnson has previously described as a position of “vassalage”.
The resolution, passed by the European parliament on Wednesday, called for EU regulations to continue to set the standard for British lawmakers past 2020. MEPs said there was a need to avoid a “race to the bottom” as they backed dynamic alignment of UK law with the EU’s.
The MEP Nathalie Loiseau, a former French minister for EU affairs and a member of the parliament’s UK coordination group, said: “The European parliament has proposed a broad, deep and sustainable partnership that is unprecedented in scope and ambition to the UK.
“This offer comes with balanced obligations: we will not compromise on what we stand for: high standards we have to protect consumers, workers, privacy and personal data of citizens or to protect the environment.”
The resolution also urged Johnson to “immediately clarify” his government’s approach to the Irish border agreement, following his repeated claims that no checks would be required on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The MEPs sought to include gender equality in trade talks, with measures to combat the pay gap, and recommended the UK should not be a net beneficiary of any EU programmes, threatening Britain’s research funding.
The vote came as EU member states met in Brussels to further toughen up the negotiating mandate proposed by Barnier, their chief Brexit negotiator, ahead of negotiations with the UK next month.
Under Barnier’s opening proposal the UK would need to commit to non-regression from current environmental, social and workers standards and would be tied into upgrading its legislation in the field of competition policy and state subsidies as EU positions develop in the years to come.
France is among the member states which believes the EU needs a tougher negotiating stance. Its final position will be adopted by member states on 25 February.