EU ministers agree UK trade talks mandate post Brexit

Michel Barnier to lead trade talk negotiations (Source:AFP)

Ministers from the EU have approved their mandate for post-Brexit trade talks with the UK.

The document - approved by the EU General Affairs Council on Tuesday - will be the basis for the negotiations, to be carried out by Michel Barnier.

Meanwhile, UK ministers have agreed the government's mandate for the negotiations, which begin on Monday.

The final agreement is due to be published online and presented in Parliament on Thursday.

The EU's mandate - a 46-page document covers the broad issues of future EU-UK relations, from fishing rights to financial services and labour mobility to the "level playing field" the bloc demands as the price of a trade deal.

Negotiations on freedom of movement for British citizens settled in the EU are also on the table as is their unconditional right to bring EU spouses and other family members back to the UK.

EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the bloc would not agree a deal "at any price".

He warned there would be "complex, demanding negotiations" over a limited period of time, that ends on 31 December.

During this period, the UK continues to follow EU rules - including freedom of movement - and it is intended to allow time for the UK and EU to agree a post-Brexit trade agreement.

It is expected that ministers in the UK will seek to negotiate a Canada-style agreement with zero tariffs, a proposal Mr Johnson and his Europe adviser David Frost have set out in speeches in recent weeks.However, Barnier has ruled out such an agreement.

Boris Johnson will also convene a meeting on Tuesday of the UK’s exit strategy team (XS) to discuss the EU paper and finalise the UK’s own mandate, which will be published on Thursday.

The XS team is made up of Mr Johnson; the chancellor, Rishi Sunak; the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab; Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and the attorney general, Suella Braverman.

Negotiations start next Monday, 2 March, with 10 rounds of meetings between the EU and the UK every three weeks thereafter with a view to a Brexit deal sealed by the middle of October.

Talks will take place between Brussels and London, with Michel Barnier’s team expected to hold press conferences in London on the Friday of every negotiating week.

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