Barnier: said his British counterparts ‘failed to engage substantially’ on issues around the level playing field(Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images) Barnier: said his British counterparts ‘failed to engage substantially’ on issues around the level playing field(Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

MEPs demand ‘zero dumping’ in future UK trade deal

The UK must commit not to undercut EU environmental standards, while tackling climate change and biodiversity loss should be an “essential element” of a post-Brexit trade agreement, the European Parliament’s environment committee said on Monday.

ENVI, as the committee is known, supported free trade with the UK but “not at any cost” and “only if the UK commits to zero dumping” - a demand previously voiced by the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Lawmakers set out their demands in an opinion forwarded to the committees on foreign trade and international affairs, responsible for elaborating the parliament’s formal position on any future deal.

Alarms were sounded in October when tortuous negotiations over the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU ended with ‘level playing field’ provisions on maintaining equivalent environmental standards relegated to a non-binding political declaration appended to the withdrawal agreement.

MEPs noted that the European Green Deal was set to raise the EU’s environmental standards vis-a-vis the UK, and that a “ratchet clause” on future measures would be insufficient to assure equivalence. If one party raises its environmental standards, “the other party should ensure that its standards and targets offer at least an equivalent level of climate or environmental protection”, they wrote.

In addition to remaining committed to the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise, ENVI said “the United Kingdom should fully align itself to the current and future Union climate policy framework, including revised 2030 targets, 2040 targets and the trajectories to achieve climate neutrality by 2050”.

The opinion, which took the form of “suggestions” set out in a letter from ENVI chair Pascal Canfin, also alluded to the UK’s “failure to comply with EU air quality legislation and to achieve ‘good’ water status for natural surface water bodies, and the serious on-going issues in relation to nitrate pollution” – infringements of which many EU members are guilty.

MEPs stressed the “importance of ensuring the appropriate monitoring and assessment of air and water quality in addition to the adoption of the common standards and targets”.

The UK government has maintained it will leave the EU on 31 December, despite delays to negotiations amid the coronavirus pandemic, whether or not a deal on any future relationship has been agreed.

Barnier warned in April that his British counterparts “failed to engage substantially” on issues around the level playing field in recent talks, warning “the UK cannot refuse to agree [to] an extension and at the same time slow down discussions on important areas”.

robert.hodgson@haymarket.com

Follow-up: Canfin letter

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