The EU's demand for a so-called level playing field in the upcoming trade negotiations with the UK would compromise Britain’s sovereign order and would be unsustainable and undemocratic, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator told an audience in a speech in Brussels this evening.
David Frost said that any idea that the UK should follow EU rules would be contrary to the "fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country".
Mr Frost said that an obligation to accept EU supervision on level playing field issues "simply fails to see the point of what we are doing".
He told students and academics at the Unversité Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) that that was not "a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure - it is the point of the whole project".
The EU has consistently said that in order to qualify for a zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade agreement, the UK must sign up to level playing field provisions, by promising not to lower its standards in the areas of environment, labour law, climate change and taxation.
Senior EU figures, such as chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have said that because of the size of the UK economy, its geographic proximity and the extent to which the economy is deeply enmeshed with the EU’s single market, the UK must not be able to reduce its standards in order to gain a competitive advantage across the board.
The EU also wants the UK to remain in lock-step with EU laws when it comes to state aid and competition rules.
Mr Frost told the audience: "We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country.
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"It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us – to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has.
"So to think that we might accept EU supervision on so called level playing field issues simply fails to see the point of what we are doing.
"It isn't a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure – it is the point of the whole project.
"That’s also why we will not extend the transition beyond the end of this year. At that point we recover our political and economic independence in full – why would we want to postpone it?"
The UK has said, under Boris Johnson, that it does not want a bespoke trade deal, but one similar to the EU-Canada FTA.
London has argued that it is being asked to bind itself to EU regulations in a way that other trade partners have not.UK politicians have also said that Britain would not be lowering its standards, and would in some cases have standards higher than the EU.
"In short, we only want what other independent countries have," Mr Frost said.
"Boris Johnson’s speech in Greenwich two weeks ago set out a record of consistently high standards of regulation and behaviour in the UK, in many cases better than EU norms or practice.
"How would you feel if the UK demanded that, to protect ourselves, the EU dynamically harmonise with our national laws set in Westminster and the decisions of our own regulators and courts?
"The more thoughtful would say that such an approach would compromise the EU’s sovereign legal order; that there would be no democratic legitimacy in the EU for the decisions taken in the UK to which the EU would be bound; and that such regulations and regulatory decisions are so fundamental to the way the population of a territory feels bound into the legitimacy of its government, that this structure would be simply unsustainable:at some point democratic consent would snap – dramatically and finally.
"The reason we expect – for example - open and fair competition provisions based on FTA precedent is not that we want a minimalist outcome on competition laws.
"It is that the model of an FTA and the precedents contained in actual agreed FTAs are the most appropriate ones for the relationship of sovereign entities in highly sensitive areas relating to how their jurisdictions are governed and how their populations give consent to that government.
"So if it is true, as we hear from our friends in the Commission and the 27, that the EU wants a durable and sustainable relationship in this highly sensitive area, the only way forward is to build on this approach of a relationship of equals."
Mr Frost spoke at length about the opportunities he believed Brexit offered, what he described as the return of the nation state, and the prospect of Britain being able to change course more quickly than the EU.
He also said the UK as a whole would thrive post-Brexit.
"We cannot be complacent about the Union in the UK, but I nevertheless believe that all parts of the UK are going to survive and thrive together as one country.In particular I am clear that I am negotiating on behalf of Northern Ireland as for every other part of the UK," he said.