Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and former Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament, has attacked Britain’s plan for a future trading relationship with the bloc. On Monday evening, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, outlined Britain’s proposals insisting the UK will walk away from trade talks with Brussels rather than surrender Britain’s newly-won independence to secure a deal.
Responding to proposals outlined by the head of Downing Street’s Task Force Europe, Mr Verhofstadt accused Mr Frost of treating the EU and the UK as if they are “living on two different planets”.
The former Belgian prime minister added it would be a “hell of a job” to secure a successful future relationship using Britain’s proposals.
Mr Verhofstadt told reporters during a joint press conference with Sadiq Khan: “It’s not a good thing that we continue to discuss the future relationship as if the UK and Europe are living on two different planets because the UK market and the market are so close to each other – physically, geographically.
“And so, these things are so intense that we have to look at it in a little bit of a different way than to simply say, this is a pure free trade deal.”
Mr Frost’s comments were delivered in a lecture at the Universite Libre in Brussels, where he insisted Britain “only wants what other independent countries have”.
He added the Prime Minister will not bargain away the independence won by securing Brexit last month to secure a deal with the EU.
He said: “We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country.
“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.”
Mr Frost suggested EU chiefs had so far failed to grasp that their opening stance was an unacceptable threat to UK sovereignty.
The negotiator snapped back at Michel Barnier’s calls for a so-called “level-playing field” of rules and standards shared by the EU and UK.
Mr Frost said the UK wanted a deal similar to those the EU had already agreed with Canada, Japan and South Korea.
He also warned the UK would not compromise on the Brexit transition period coming to an end on December 31.
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These things are so intense that we have to look at it in a little bit of a different way than to simply say, this is a pure free trade deal
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said the transition period will come to an end on December 31.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has already warned about the timescale of negotiations.
Speaking on Tuesday, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was quick to respond to Britain’s demands.
He told reporters: “We have proposed a trade agreement with a country that has a very particular and unique close geographical proximity not like Canada, not like South Korea and not like Japan. Very particular.
“We are ready to propose and work very quickly with Britain on the basis of the political declaration which was agreed with Boris Johnson.
“We stand ready to propose this agreement, if the UK wants it.”
Mr Frost was appointed as the Prime Minister’s chief adviser on European policy soon after taking over in Downing Street last July.
The veteran civil servant replaced Theresa May’s chief negotiator Sir Olly Robbins.
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