What did we learn from David Frost’s speech?

Yesterday evening David Frost, the UK’s Chief Negotiator for the future UK-EU Trade Deal, gave his first public speech since taking up the role. He gave an overview of what the UK Government’s opening negotiating position will look like, building on a previous speech by the Prime Minister earlier this month. Below is what we learnt from David Frost’s speech in Brussels last night.

The UK isn’t interested in a bespoke trade deal

The Prime Minister has previously made it clear that the UK will not seek to align with EU rules. David Frost highlighted this again, and that the UK Government is not interested in a bespoke trade agreement, and that the UK will not seek to align with EU rules and standards. He said, “We are clear that we want the Canada-Free Trade Agreement-type relationship which the EU has so often said is on offer – even if the EU itself now seems to be experiencing some doubts about that, unfortunately.”

The UK wants to be treated as a sovereign equal

Mr Frost outlined the UK Government’s desire to be treated as “sovereign equals” with the EU in any future agreement. This could be viewed as the UK wanting to set its own standards and regulations but avoiding EU penalties whilst retaining access to the benefits of the single market. This is likely to be unfavourable terms for the EU and any divergence from regulations and standards agreed with the EU would prove problematic for ADS members. Diverging from EU rules for example in aerospace will add costs and increase complexity for ADS members.

Was there much new content in the speech?

In a word, no. We have heard a lot of the rhetoric from David Frost’s speech from senior Government Ministers over the past few weeks. Michael Gove last week warned businesses to prepare for checks on the UK-EU border from 1 January 2021 and the Prime Minister has been calling for a Canada-style trade deal for weeks. By reasserting the same message, the UK Government is indicating to the EU that it may walk away from the negotiating table and have no trade deal at the end of the year.

The EU will set out its negotiating mandate for the UK-EU trade talks in the coming weeks before official trade talks begin in March. ADS can keep members up-to-date with developments and advice for how to best prepare your business for the end of the transition period on the Brexit Hub here.