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[Published: Saturday July 11 2020]

 Brexit: Barnier says Brussels 'ready to grant' City of London access to EU markets

BRUSSELS, 11 July. - (ANA) - EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said Brussels is prepared to grant the City of London access to European markets post-Brexit.
New documents released by the House of Lords EU committee show that Barnier recently told the group that Brussels was “ready to grant equivalence”.
The EU has the power to unilaterally grant access to financial services firms based on whether UK regulations are similar to their own – known as equivalence.
Brussels has said on numerous occasions that the process is separate from ongoing post-Brexit trade talks, however it has been suggested that the EU could withhold access to its markets in order to draw out concessions from the UK in negotiations.
A row also broke out last week between Downing Street and the EU after it was revealed the UK had failed to hand in all the necessary equivalence assessments on time.
However, Barnier’s comments will assuage fears that the City could face a cut off from Europe after the post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
Speaking to the Lords committee, Barnier said: “We are ready to grant equivalence.
“The time for decisions is in the autumn, in good time, in the global context of our negotiations on many subjects with the UK.”
Barnier also suggested there was room to manoeuvre on the EU’s request that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is involved in governing any UK-EU trade deal – a demand that has been ruled out by Boris Johnson.
In regards to the ECJ, Barnier said: “I do not imagine that it would not be possible to find some creative solution to deal with these issues.
“We are open to being creative so that we keep various sides happy.”
Barnier met UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost for dinner at 10 Downing Street last night as formal post-Brexit trade talks commenced again today.
The informal meeting reportedly allowed the pair to discuss some of the negotiations’ most difficult sticking points.
These include EU access to UK fishing waters and business competition regulations known as the level playing field.
In what could be seen as a jibe at the EU’s negotiating position on fishing, the two were served halibut for main course – one of the UK’s most prominent fish exports.
Johnson has said he wants the parameters of a deal wrapped up by the end of this month ahead of the end of the post-Brexit transition period on 31 December.
The government has said it wants to give businesses enough time to adjust to changes next year and that negotiators will walk away and prepare for a no-deal scenario before autumn if no breakthroughs happen.
Fishing policy is one of the major flashpoints in talks, with EU member states pushing to retain the same access to UK fishing waters as they had when Britain was in the EU.
Chief UK negotiator Frost has described this as a “non runner” and is asking for a “zonal attachment” agreement, which can be periodically reviewed.
Frost said the UK would be “an independent coastal nation” on 1 January next year in any case.
The EU is also asking for the UK to match regulations on things like labour laws, environmental protection and state aid provisions.
In return for this level-playing field for businesses on both sides, the EU has said it will allow zero-tariff trading with the UK.
UK negotiators have said they will not allow the EU to set British regulations on these issues.
Barnier has accused the UK of trying to “cherry pick” parts of EU membership without the added responsibilities.   - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/11 July 2020 - - -

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