Panic mounts in Brussels amid fears that Boris Johnson could rip up their Brexit withdrawal agreement in a move that the BBC described as an “EU nightmare and a Brexiteer dream”.
The EU is increasingly concerned that Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan could see the UK surpass the Brussels-led bloc. This follows claims that the British Prime Minister has outmanoeuvred his European rivals by potentially ripping up his Brexit withdrawal agreement before the trade talks begin. The BBC’s Lewis Goodall described the latest developments as an “EU nightmare and a Brexiteer dream”.
The UK and EU are set to begin trade talks in March, leaving the two sides just ten months to strike a deal before the end of 2020 transition deadline.
Earlier this week, the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost stunned Brussels after he insisted that signing up to EU standards would defeat the purpose of Brexit.
In a rare public speech at a university in Brussels on Monday, Mr Frost said: “We believe that sovereignty is meaningful and what it enables us to do is to set out rules for our own benefit.
“It isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure – it is the point of the whole project.”
He also repeated Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge not to extend the Brexit transition period.
Goodall explained: “Frost outlined a Brexiteer’s dream but an EU nightmare. No alignment of rules. No oversight from the European court, the ECJ.
“And no level playing field clauses that keep the UK tied to the EU standards.
“The EU has responded by claiming this reneges on Clause 77 of the withdrawal agreement, that mandates a level playing field.”
Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, hit back at these claims: “We have a political declaration, we have to keep to the declaration.
“If we already change what we agreed months ago, it might be difficult.”
Bernd Lange MEP, the chair of the Committee on International Trade, added: “It was a bit of a surprise to get that information on Monday, that Britain is now leaving this consensus of the political declaration.
“I’m quite traditional in my view that once something is agreed, it is agreed.”
French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel both refused to answer Goodall’s questions on whether the EU still trusted Boris Johnson.
He asked the questions at the EU summit where leaders of the 27 member-states are trying to thrash out a new seven-year budget.
The BBC reporter said: “Our absence – or rather, the absence of our money – is haunting the EU summit and their attempt to reach a budget settlement.”
He also said that Brussels had ruled out the possibility of a Canada-style trade deal, claiming the UK was “too close and too much of a competitor” to allow that type of deal.