Brexit talks: What is the level playing field?

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Negotiators have been attempting to reach a deal since the start of the transition period earlier this year – but no deal has been found yet. The two sides remain in deadlock over three key areas: fisheries, the level playing field, and governance.

What is a level playing field?

The level playing field has been a thorn in the side of negotiators for months now, with David Frost and Michel Barnier unable to come to an agreement.

A level playing field is a trade policy term for common rules and standards preventing businesses in different countries gaining competitive advantages over those operating in other countries.

The level playing field involves rules on competition, state aid, taxation, labour and environmental standards, and climate change.

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In short – it’s about fair and open competition and makes up an important part of the EU’s single market.

Both the EU and the UK signed up to this in the Political Declaration – a non-binding framework for future relations which was part of the divorce deal.

Negotiators have been attempting to reach some sort of agreement regarding how these rules should work once the UK leaves the single market.

The EU is insisting the level playing field must be maintained when it comes to workers’ rights, taxation, environmental protection, and state aid.

The EU is refusing to concede and give the UK access to the single market if there is a possibility companies based in the UK could be given state support – which could undercut their rivals within the EU.

All trade agreements involve level playing fields, so the EU is not demanding anything unusual – they are there to make sure all parties are not operating at a commercial disadvantage.

The UK is already deeply embedded in trading markets within Europe.

To boot, it is one of the world’s largest economies and already next door to the remaining EU countries.

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Boris Johnson wants a no tariff, no quota trade deal, but is also insisting on being able to diverge away from EU rules and regulations.

Unfortunately for Mr Johnson, the EU is not willing to go this far to give him the Brexit deal of his dreams.

With very little time left to decide on a deal, Mr Johnson has ordered Lord Frost to head to Brussels on Sunday for 48 hours of “intensive” discussions with EU counterpart Michel Barnier in a last-ditch bid to stop the UK leaving with no-deal.

The Prime Minister spoke with Ursula von der Leyen but failed to reach an agreement this weekend.

Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen have agreed to speak again on Monday night.

In a joint statement after the call on Saturday night, Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen warned that “significant differences remain on three critical issues: ‘level playing field’, governance and fisheries.”

Both sides made it clear no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.

The statement said: “Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.

“We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow in Brussels. We will speak again on Monday evening.”

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