Brexit: With talks set to begin, both sides take a tough stance

Brexit | | MIC Customs Solutions |

There has been fighting talk from the EU and the UK over Brexit negotiations.

Following the UK's official exit from the European Union last month, it has entered a transition phase until the end of the year during which it will have to negotiate new deals in order to trade with other nations.

Talks are set to begin next Monday (March 2nd 2020) in order to facilitate this with the EU - but there is no sign that either side is going to make them easy.

European ministers in Brussels have said they are prepared to offer a "substantial, ambitious and wide-ranging partnership" to Britain, while a UK government spokesperson told CNBC it will have its own mandate ready to present.

However, this could be a complicated process, with both the UK and the EU set on protecting their own interests.

For his part, British prime minister Boris Johnson has made clear he wants a Canada-style arrangement that means zero tariffs, as well as the ability to create separate laws and standards for the UK.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said it will not be possible to copy the Canadian deal, though, in case British businesses can then step in to undercut their rivals in Europe that are subject to tariffs.

Reuters has also quoted France's Europe minister Amelie de Montchalin as saying tariffs and quotas will have to apply if there is no regulatory proximity.

Mr Johnson has insisted the UK is not aiming to "undermine EU standards" and "engage in some cut-throat race to the bottom", but a Downing Street spokesperson did reiterate it wants to "restore our economic and political independence".

With Mr Barnier warning that the EU will not simply be concluding a trade deal "at any price", early indications are that this split could turn somewhat acrimonious by next week.

Meanwhile, the issue of the Irish border is continuing to rumble on, with Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney warning Mr Johnson he thinks a failure to fulfil commitments already made to the Irish border could damage Britain's chances of a good trade agreement with the EU.

It was reported by the Sunday Times that UK officials have been looking into ways to evade any new checks on goods passing from Britain to Northern Ireland that were agreed upon as part of the divorce agreements.

Indeed, Mr Barnier has already voiced concerns that the UK has apparently not yet been preparing for the border checks that will begin after December 31st 2020.

However, Downing Street issued a statement insisting it will be complying with its obligations regarding the Irish protocol as previously agreed.

Many people will undoubtedly be glad to see movement of any kind in the Brexit process after such a long stand-off, but it will certainly be interesting to see what next week's talks bring - and what that might mean for trade.