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15.31 3 Feb 2020


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Boris Johnson has pledged that Britain will not lead a "cut-throat race to the bottom" on standards after Brexit.

The UK Prime Minister said he is not about to "undermine" current labour laws or food and environmental during a speech revealing he will push for a Canada-style deal in talks over the next 11 months.

However, the EU has insisted the UK needs to commit to the same level of standards in law to get an agreement.

After Brexit took place last Friday, negotiators have until the end of the year to hammer out a deal before continuity trading rules during the so-called "transition period" stop.

Mr Johnson set himself on a collision course with the EU by in a speech laying out his aims today.

He insisted there was "no need" to abide by Brussels' rules and insisted British fishing grounds are "first and foremost" for UK boats.

He said: "There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policies, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules.

"The UK will maintain the highest standards in these areas, better in many respects than those of the EU, without the compulsion of a treaty.

Mr Johnson confirmed that if a Canada-style agreement was not possible, he would be prepared to walk away without a full trade deal.

In that instance, the UK would trade instead on World Trade Organisation terms similar to Australia's relationship with the EU.

However, before the speech, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier demanded "reciprocal access" for fishing vessels, and declared that a free trade area with no tariffs or quotas was dependent on a "level playing field... ensured through robust commitments".

He added that "where there's a will, there's a way" to reach a deal.

Mr Barnier suggested it was impossible to complete the whole agreement in 11 months, despite Mr Johnson saying he will refuse to extend the transition period.

Main image: Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, ahead of the opening sessions of the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels last October. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

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