EU seeks ambitious deal with Britain, demands fairness

Puzzle with printed EU and UK flags is seen in this illustration taken November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union wants an ambitious future partnership with Britain, including zero tariffs and quotas, but will demand commitments to ensure open and fair competition, according to the EU’s draft mandate for negotiations released on Monday.

The demand for a level playing field was the only section in bold of the 33-page document.

“Given the Union and the United Kingdom’s geographic proximity and economic interdependence, the envisaged partnership must ensure open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field,” the document said.

The partnership should ensure “common high standards” in state aid, competition, state-owned enterprises, labor and environmental standards and “relevant tax matters”, it said.

The partnership, the document said, should ensure the application of EU state aid rules to Britain.

The draft mandate also sees a role for the Court of Justice of the European Union, for example in the case of a dispute.

EU governments are expected to approve the draft negotiating mandate on Feb. 25, allowing negotiations to begin at the start of March.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Marine Strauss, editing by Robin Emmott