EUROPEAN negotiators have rejected British efforts to break the deadlock as the post-Brexit trade talks falter.
Michel Barnier, the European Unions chief negotiator, has blocked at least two plans that could pave the way for a free-trade agreement being agreed within months. The Frenchmans army of officials have pushed back against Downing Streets blueprint for a regulatory level-playing field and for UK testing labs to be able to certify products destined for the EU market. The bloc has demanded a role for the European Court of Justice in ensuring Britain doesnt diverge from standards set by eurocrats in Brussels.
It wants this included in an overarching legal structure that covers all the different areas of the post-Brexit deal – trade, fisheries, aviation and energy.
The European Commission has rejected British offers to include a level playing field similar to the bloc has in other free-trade agreements.
A UK spokesman said: “The UK has set out that we are committed to discussing open and fair competition as part of negotiations on the future relationship.
“The UK must retain its sovereign right to regulate in a way that supports businesses, workers and consumers, while also protecting UK businesses from unfair competition from the EU market.
“Its common in FTAs to commit to uphold standards in areas such as workers rights and environmental protections to ensure that trading partners can compete fairly and cannot introduce measures that seek to distort competition.
“These will be reciprocal commitments and ensure that the UK retains its sovereign right to regulate.”
Downing Street has said it will not allow the EUs top courts to have leverage over UK laws as part of the future relationship with Brussels.
UK negotiators believe the bloc is simply attempting to keep Britain tied to swathes of rules drawn up in the Belgian capital.
But they have seen attempts to discuss the EUs similar level-playing field arrangements with Canada, Japan and South Korea, which are aimed simply at preventing trade distortions and not to take control of laws, rubbished.
The EU instead want Britain to agree to a commitment to stick to its current standards in areas such as workers rights and environmental issues without following EU legislation.
But the bloc wants the UKs future use of state aid to be dynamically aligned to the rules drawn up by the Commission, and enforced by the ECJ.
Brussels negotiators have also scuppered UK attempts to discuss mutual recognition for third party conformity assessments for marine equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automotive and organic products.
With such an agreement, testing bodies in the UK would be allowed to set products to ensure they meet EU standards and the bloc would accept their decision before the products enter its market.
A UK spokesman said: “The detail of the EU’s offer on goods falls well short of recent precedent in free trade agreements it has agreed with other sovereign countries.
“This considerably reduced the value of the zero-tariff, zero-quota aspiration we both share.
“We hope sense prevails and the EU agrees an ambitious free trade agreement on the lines we have proposed.”
Downing Street has bemoaned the limited progress made in recent talks.
But officials on both sides are still confident a deal can be struck before the transition period expires at the end of the year.
The two sides have held three official negotiating rounds and are due to hold one more in June before a high-level meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
After recent talks, David Frost, the Prime Ministers chief negotiator, has told the Cabinet his EU counterparts are asking “far more” of the UK than of other countries.
“David reiterated that we werent and never had asked for anything special, bespoke or unique from the EU,” the Prime Ministers spokesman said.
“We are looking for a free-trade agreement based on precedent and similar to those the EU has already got with countries like Canada.
“The EU has asked far more from the UK than they have from other sovereign countries with whom they have reached free-trade agreements.”