EU ‘surprised’ by Boris Johnson’s aspiration for UK relationship to be more like Australia

PUBLISHED: 10:13 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:17 11 February 2020

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

EU chiefs have been left ‘surprised’ by Boris Johnson’s aspiration for the UK to have an Australian-style relationship with the EU without a formal trade deal.

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In a speech setting out the UK's negotiating objectives, Johnson said the question was whether to seek a Canadian-style deal or an Australian-style relationship, "and I have no doubt that in either case the UK will prosper".

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen pointed out that even Australia wants a better trading relationship with the bloc than the one it currently has.

She said the UK and EU should be "way more ambitious" about reaching a full trade deal.

But speaking in the European parliament, Von der Leyen said both models fell short of a deal which would meet the goals of allowing trade without tariffs and quotas.

That aim, set out in the Political Declaration, would require a "level playing field" with both sides guaranteeing "fair competition and the protection of social, environmental and consumer standards".

"We are ready to discuss all different models of trade agreement. But all these models, whatever you choose, have one thing in common - they all come not only with rights but also with obligations for both sides."

The Canada deal eliminates most, but not all, tariffs and quotas and "we still have our standards that have to be respected", she said.

Von der Leyen added: "Honestly, I was a little bit surprised to hear the prime minister of the United Kingdom speak about the Australian model.

"Australia, without any doubt, is a strong and a like-minded partner. But the European Union does not have a trade agreement with Australia.

"We are currently trading on WTO terms and, if this is the British choice, well, we are fine with that, without any question."

But the EU was trying to negotiate a trade deal with Australia to end the current situation.

"Of course the UK can decide to settle for less, but I personally believe that we should be way more ambitious," she said.

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