Brussels, Feb 26 (IANS) The Council of the European Union (EU) has authorised the EU’s opening of negotiations with the United Kingdom, publishing negotiations directives which constitute a mandate to the European Commission, paving the way for potentially difficult talks after Brexit.

The EU said it wishes to establish an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership with the UK, but the two sides need to iron out many details, Xinhua news agency reported.

What exactly London wants in its future relations with Brussels remains to be clearly seen. There are talks in London about a so-called Canada-style trade agreement with zero tariffs. But EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Tuesday that “The UK will be the EU’s third largest trading partner, almost 10 times bigger than Canada. At the same time Canada is some 5,000 km away. It’s clear that the rules cannot be the same.”

At the heart of the tough negotiations ahead is how closely the UK would like to align itself with the world’s largest trading bloc.

The UK cannot expect high-quality access to the EU single market “if it’s not prepared to accept guarantees that competition remains open and fair, free and fair,” Barnier said, later adding “There must be robust level playing field, safeguards to avoid unfair advantages on social, environmental, tax, and aid state matters.”




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