Talks began in Brussels this week, amid deep tensions over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threat to walk away from the negotiations if not enough progress is made within four months. The chief negotiators – the EU’s Michel Barnier and the UK’s David Frost – held an initial meeting on Monday before scores of officials from the two sides got down to business. Mr Frost and Mr Barnier will hold a news conference in Brussels later today to wrap up the first round of discussions.
While not much has transpired from the last few days, it is believed the two sides are set for one of the biggest showdowns yet, as they appear to have starkly different views on what on what constitutes fair competition between their economies.
In its negotiating mandate, Brussels insisted the UK should agree to a number of EU regulations, including environmental standards, workers’ rights and state aid rules.
On the other hand, Britain is demanding the right to diverge from the bloc’s rules in order to strike new trade agreements around the world that it thinks will bolster its economy.
As uncertainty over the future relationship continues, former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell explained why Britons should not worry about the negotiations, as Mr Johnson clearly has the upper hand in these discussions.
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David Frost and Michel Barnier
He explained to Express.co.uk: “I think the Government’s position is absolutely right. We are not going to allow ourselves to be forced into the EU’s regulatory orbit.
“Now, it is really up to the EU as to how they want to respond to that. If they want to respond to that by imposing tariffs, it’s on them.
“I think the EU’s opening position shows that Barnier has not really, even yet, understood what Brexit means. Brexit means we make our own rules, we make our own laws, we make our own mistakes and we take responsibility for those mistakes.
“The question is not really ‘what will the EU do?’ but ‘is the EU willing to give us the same terms that it gave to Canada?’
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Former Ukip MP Douglas Cardwell
EU trade talks
“If they are not, then fine, we will trade with the EU with the same terms as Australia.”
Mr Carswell noted: “But given that last year, we bought £60billion worth more goods from the EU than we sold to the EU, if there is a cross-channel tariff war, I would suggest that we have less to lose than our suppliers.”
Mr Carswell’s comments were echoed by Italian MEP Antonio Maria Rinaldi, who, last month, also told Express.co.uk that Britons should rest easy.
The eurosceptic, who is one of the League’s 28 European parliamentarians, said: “The UK is a European client because the EU is a net exporter to the UK.
“So why should we penalise them further?
“It would be like shooting ourselves in the foot.
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Italian MEP Antonio Maria Rinaldi and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage
“In the end, there will be an agreement that will take this into account. Since the referendum, it seems like Brussels has wanted to punish a country, which has democratically decided to leave.
“But they will slowly come to their senses.”
When asked how he sees the negotiations ending, Mr Rinaldi said: “Let’s be clear.
“The UK did not leave Europe, it left the EU, which is just a series of agreements.
“And agreements have been signed and rejected since the days of the Babylonians.
“I don’t see it as a huge problem. The UK, with its strength and ability and with its power, will certainly manage to find bilateral and plurilateral agreements.
“It has always done so, but not only that, the UK has the upper hand in these negotiations.
“It is a net buyer. It’s like saying ‘I am a customer, I am going to buy a pair of shoes and the owner of the shop starts slapping me in the face’.”