The Prime Minister Theresa May set out the Government’s vision for the future economic partnership the UK is seeking with the EU.
First, the Prime Minister laid five tests for our future partnership with the EU:
- Respect the result of the referendum;
- Be an enduring agreement;
- Protect people’s jobs and security;
- Deliver an outcome consistent with the kind of country we want to be;
- Strengthen our Union of nations and bring our country back together.
The existing models for co-operation between the EU and a third country would not pass these tests, and therefore would not work for the UK or the EU. The UK will instead seek the broadest and deepest possible agreement – covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any FTA anywhere in the world today.
To realise this ambition there are five foundations that must underpin our trading relationship:
- Reciprocal binding commitments to ensure fair and open competition;
- A completely independent arbitration mechanism;
- Ongoing dialogue with the EU, in particular between our regulators;
- A arrangement for data protection that goes beyond an adequacy agreement;
- Maintaining the links between our people.
On goods, a fundamental principle is that the UK-EU border should be as frictionless as possible. So we are seeking a comprehensive system of mutual recognition to ensure that, as now, products only need to undergo one series of approvals in one country. This can be achieved via a commitment to ensure that the relevant UK regulatory standards remain as high as the EU’s which, in practice, means that UK and EU regulatory standards will remain substantially similar in the future. Our default is that UK law may not necessarily be identical to EU law but should achieve the same outcomes.
The Government will also explore the terms on which the UK could opt to remain part of EU agencies, such as those for the chemicals, medicines and aerospace industries. This is the only way to meet our objective of ensuring that these products only need to undergo one series of approvals.
The Prime Minister also set out two potential options for our future customs relationship with the EU: a customs partnership and a highly streamlined customs arrangement, as well as some specific provisions for the unique situation in Northern Ireland. We recognise that some of these ideas depend on technology, robust systems to ensure trust and confidence, as well as goodwill- but they are serious and merit consideration.
On services, we have the opportunity to establish a broader agreement than ever before, including a labour mobility framework that enables travel to provide services to clients in person, and continued recognition of professional qualifications. Two areas have never been covered in free trade agreements in any meaningful way before: financial services and broadcasting. We recognise that we cannot have the rights of membership of the single market, such as ‘passporting’ in financial services and ‘country of origin’ in broadcasting. But we should not be bound by existing precedent and we have set out creative proposals. The PM also set out other areas our agreement will need to cover, including energy, transport, digital, civil judicial cooperation, a far-reaching science and innovation pact, and educational and cultural programmes.
The PM concluded by saying: ‘My message to our friends in Europe is clear. We know what we want. We understand your principles. We have a shared interest in getting this right. Let’s get on with it.’