Johnson signals ‘no alignment’ with European Court of Justice

No ‘quality access’ to single market unless UK matches EU standards, says Von der Leyen

British prime minister Boris Johnson has told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen that Britain's future partnership with the EU cannot involve "any kind of alignment" or European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction.

But Dr Von der Leyen said Britain could not have “high quality access” to the European single market unless it agrees to match EU standards on the environment, labour, taxation and state aid.

The two leaders were joined at their meeting in Downing Street by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay.

“The PM reiterated that we wanted a broad free trade agreement covering goods and services, and co-operation in other areas. The PM was clear that the UK would not extend the implementation period beyond December 31st, 2020; and that any future partnership must not involve any kind of alignment or ECJ jurisdiction. He said the UK would also maintain control of UK fishing waters and our immigration system,” said a Downing Street spokesperson.

“The PM made clear that we would continue to ensure high standards in the UK in areas like workers’ rights, animal welfare, agriculture and the environment. The PM said the UK was ready to start negotiations on the future partnership and Canada-style FTA [free trade agreement] as soon as possible after January 31st.”

Earlier, Dr Von der Leyen said she hoped the negotiations between Britain and the EU would be constructive and ambitious but she warned that every choice would have a consequence.

“With every decision comes a trade-off. Without the free movement of people, you cannot have the free movement of capital, goods and services. Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest single market.

“The more divergence there is the more distant the partnership has to be. And without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership,” she said in a speech at the London School of Economics.

“We will have to prioritise. The European Union’s objectives in the negotiation are clear. We will work for solutions that uphold the integrity of the EU, its single market and its customs union. There can be no compromise on this.”

North’s MPs seek ‘unfettered access’

MPs on Wednesday rejected an amendment to the withdrawal agreement Bill, backed by the DUP, the SDLP and Alliance, that sought a legal guarantee of “unfettered access” for Northern Ireland businesses to the rest of the UK. The amendment was defeated by 337 votes to 262.

"The Bill simply refers to regulations 'facilitating the access to the market'. That access to the market may require businesses in Northern Ireland to undertake a huge number of checks, with costly administration. The term 'unfettered access' is not in the Bill, and despite the promises that the Minister has made, no one yet knows what unfettered access means," said the DUP's Sammy Wilson.

During the two-hour debate on amendments relating to Northern Ireland, Mr Wilson was the only MP from the North who was allocated speaking time. The SDLP's Claire Hanna said the conduct of the debate would reinforce the feeling that a particular form of Brexit was being forced on Northern Ireland.

“People will appreciate that the right honourable gentleman [Mr Wilson] and I come from very different perspectives, but all the Northern Irish parties and all the business community have worked together on our common interests, because they are so vital to protect businesses and consumers, who cannot absorb the costs of this Brexit,” she said.