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No 10: UK will not accept unbalanced conditions in EU trade deal

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

The European Union (EU) must recognise that the UK will not sign up to the conditions it is seeking as part of a proposed trade deal, Downing Street said on Monday.

With the fourth round of talks in an increasingly fractious set of negotiations beginning today, Number 10 accused Brussels of insisting on an “unbalanced” set of demands.

Time is running short to make progress on a trade deal ahead of Boris Johnson attending a high-level summit later this month which could be make or break for the process.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier used a Sunday Times interview to accuse the UK of failing to meet commitments agreed with Brussels.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman accused the EU of insisting on restrictions on the UK’s freedom to diverge from Brussels rules which were not set out in the joint Political Declaration.

One of the major issues is the “level playing field” which is aimed at preventing the UK from undercutting EU standards on issues including workers’ rights, environmental protection and state subsidies.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The political declaration sets out the potential scope of the future relationship. Both we and the EU signed up to it.”

“Any agreement based on it has to be balanced and represent a balance of benefits to both sides.”

“In relation to the level-playing field the EU has insisted on including a set of novel and unbalanced proposals which would bind the UK to EU law or standards or impose control over our domestic legal regimes.”

“These proposals are unprecedented in free trade agreements and not set out in the political declaration.”

“As soon as the EU recognises that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress.”

Despite a process described by some insiders as “tetchy” and a public exchange of letters between Mr Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost, Downing Street insisted progress could be made.

“We hope this latest round is constructive and we hope that it will keep the process on track ahead of the high-level meeting later this month.”

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