Phil Hogan says EU ready to do ‘ambitious’ UK trade deal

Extent of UK divergence from single market will have implications, says commissioner

Phil Hogan: “The decision for the UK will be how much they want to diverge from the single market and the rules – and, of course, that has implications for the UK as well as the European Union.” Photograph: Bloomberg

Phil Hogan: “The decision for the UK will be how much they want to diverge from the single market and the rules – and, of course, that has implications for the UK as well as the European Union.” Photograph: Bloomberg

 

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan said on Thursday that Brussels is “ready to do an ambitious and comprehensive” trade agreement with the UK, although he warned that the extent to which the country diverges from single market rules “will have implications” for any deal.

Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Mr Hogan also sought to de-escalate heightened tension between the US and EU. Earlier at the four-day event, US president Donald Trump threatened to impose a 25 per cent tariff on European car imports if the EU is unwilling to compromise on a trade deal before US elections in November.

Mr Hogan said that the EU’s mandate for talks with the UK, to be signed off by ministers on February 25th, will be in line with the non-binding political declaration that accompanied Mr Johnson’s withdrawal agreement last November. This paves the way for Brexit to officially take effect at the end of this month.

The political declaration calls for a so-called level playing field on how goods are produced in the UK and EU, workers’ rights, environmental protection and state aid. However, the UK government has pushed back against this, with its chancellor of the exchequer, Sajid Javid, saying in the Swiss ski resort on Wednesday that “there’s no point in leaving the EU and sticking to its rules forever”.

“We’re ready to do an ambitious and comprehensive new partnership deal with the UK,” Mr Hogan said. “The decision for the UK will be how much they want to diverge from the single market and the rules – and, of course, that has implications for the UK as well as the European Union. We’ll have to have checks and controls built into any final arrangement as well.”

‘Big challenge’

Mr Hogan said that a “big challenge between now and the end of June” is for the UK to decide whether or not it is going to have a longer transition period than the end of 2020.

“In legislative terms they have decided that they don’t want it, so we have to prioritise in relation to what we can achieve between the end of October, early November to get the approval process done before the 31st of December,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump used his visit to the WEF to take aim at the EU for having trade barriers, saying Europe was “more difficult to do business with than China”.

Still, Mr Hogan said Mr Trump and his team had a “constructive” meeting earlier this week with EU officials and that he did not expect the US to impose tariffs on European auto imports. Mr Hogan said the US president uses such threats as a way of getting attention.

“We regularly hear about the things that we disagree on. I’d like to concentrate on the agenda that is positive and that will be a win-win for both sides,” he said. “And I think that is achievable in a short period of time.”