French trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has said that a close trading relationship between the UK and European Union (EU) after Brexit was in the best interest of both parties.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Lemoyne said a “very close” partnership was necessary “to secure jobs, growth on both sides of the Channel”.
He added that a trade deal with the UK was likely to be unique, and would not “resemble any other bilateral agreement, any other trade agreement”, because of the history between the EU and the UK.
But the upbeat tone came with a warning that the EU expected “fair play” over the agreement. Lemoyne echoed EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s insistence that the UK align closely with current EU standards on the environment and labour.
These demands “will be at the heart of our demands for the future relationship,” Lemoyne said.
The EU would not risk the UK having unfair market advantages over member states, and national parliaments in the bloc “have shown that they are increasing demands when it comes to trade deals, notably when it comes to the area of social rights and the environment”.
The EU has said it wants negotiations to start quickly if, as is currently expected, the UK leaves the bloc on 31 January 2020. Both sides recognise the need to try and strike a deal before the end of 2020, when an agreed transition period ends and tariffs kick in.
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