UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to discard thousands of EU laws by the end of 2023, might lead to a full-scale trade war between London and Brussels, the Guardian has reported citing senior European Union officials.
The article, published on Sunday, cites sources saying that EU leaders are reportedly preparing their own “unilateral rebalancing measures” in secret meetings in Brussels which might lead to the option of imposing tariffs on UK goods entering the EU single market. These measures may lead to a trade war with the bloc and serious damage to the UK economy.
Letters from leading EU politicians reveal deep concern that the UK is about to lower the standards in areas such as environmental protection and workers’ rights that were at the heart of the post-Brexit trade and cooperation agreement (TCA), the report said.
Under the TCA, the UK agreed to maintain high standards on labor and social protection, the environment, climate, and other areas in order to ensure fair conditions for UK-EU trade, in return for the EU to provide tariff-free access to the single market for British manufactured goods.
The warnings of retaliatory moves by the EU have been issued by two senior figures involved in the planned European response; France’s ex-Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau, who co-chairs the joint EU-UK parliamentary forum, and David McAllister, the German MEP who chairs the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Loiseau in a letter to Labor MP Stella Creasy, chair of the Labor Movement for Europe, said the EU was “really concerned” about the effects of the retained EU law bill, and is “making sure to be ready for any additional controls that would be needed to protect the EU single market starting from 1 January 2024.”
Also, McAllister noted that the European parliament and the council, as co-legislators, will soon “adopt a regulation laying down rules and procedures to ensure an effective and timely exercise of the European Union’s rights in enforcing and implementing the withdrawal agreement and the trade and cooperation agreement.”
He clarified that the agreements contain mechanisms to ensure non-regression from the current high levels of protection in labor and social standards, environment, and climate, as well as rules on subsidies, and the possibility to apply unilateral rebalancing measures.
The planned post-Brexit revision of the UK’s law books may erase more than 2,400 laws without much scrutiny, according to the British media.
In a statement to mark the third anniversary of UK’s withdrawal from the EU, Sunak repeated his view that rewriting EU rules was “a key area where the UK can develop a competitive advantage in order to grow the economy”, while retaining workers’ rights and environmental protections.
A government spokesperson said “the retained EU law bill will enable us to amend or remove burdensome retained EU law and ensure we can create the best regulatory environment in the UK to drive economic growth, boost innovation and develop a competitive advantage in future technology.”
The prospect of a trade war with the EU comes amid growing evidence that Brexit is inflicting serious damage on the UK economy.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently said that it expected Britain to grow at a slower rate than any other of the G7 leading industrialized countries, including Russia.
According to the latest post-Brexit polling, there’s been a sharp jump in the number of UK residents who say they’d rather be a member of the EU. About 58 percent of those polled, now say the UK should remain in the bloc, the highest level since the 2016 referendum.