LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer downplayed on Wednesday dour warnings from the European Union that the only model of future relations between the two entities after Brexit would be a limited free trade agreement.
Philip Hammond gave a Brexit speech at HSBC’s London headquarters not long after the President of the European Council Donald Tusk outlined the EU’s own Brexit guidelines at a press briefing in which he warned the red lines drawn by the UK government in the negotiations so far meant that only a free trade deal worse than the current arrangement would be possible.
“The aspiration that the EU itself is setting out for our future relationship, it couldn’t be contained within a straightforward FTA (free trade agreement),” Hammond said, reiterating his conservative government’s stance that neither a similar trade model enjoyed by Canada would not be adequate for a fresh EU deal with the UK after Brexit, given the geographical proximity between the two entities.
He put Tusk’s stark trade warnings down to the rhetoric of a skilled negotiator.
“It does not surprise me remotely that what they’ve set out this morning is a very tough position. That’s what any competent, skilled, experienced negotiator would do,” Hammond said.
Tusk said a simple FTA was inevitable should Prime Minister Theresa May follow through with her plan to withdraw the UK from the single market, remarking, furthermore, that it would be the first time in history that a new trade agreement brought about a loosening of economic ties, rather than an increase.
The EU has repeatedly warned London that it cannot pick and choose the perks of single market membership during the negotiations, as it was not in Brussels’ interest.