Give Britain Ukraine-style association deal, say MEPs

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The EU should offer Britain an "association agreement" after Brexit, similar to the ones it has with Ukraine or Georgia, European legislators said Wednesday.

The European Parliament passed a resolution saying an association agreement based on four key areas -- trade, foreign policy and security, internal security and "thematic" cooperation -- could form the basis for ties with Britain when it leaves the bloc next year.

Britain wants a wide-ranging free trade deal, but Brussels has warned it will not be allowed to "pick and mix" the benefits of EU membership and will suffer some hardship as a result of quitting the bloc.

"An association agreement negotiated and agreed between the EU and the UK... could provide an appropriate framework for the future relationship," said the motion, passed by 544 votes to 110 with 51 abstentions.

It called for the creation of a "coherent and solid governance system" to oversee the agreement, with a mechanism for resolving any disputes that arise.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said Tuesday that talks he held with the British government last week had left him confident London would "see the advantages of such an approach".

The proposal restates many of the EU's existing negotiating "red lines" with the UK, notably that any free trade deal must avoid so-called "cherry picking" -- Britain agreeing to follow some EU rules but not others.

The text warned against a race to the bottom on tax regulatory standards, saying access to the EU market would be conditional on Britain respecting Brussels regulations on food safety, animal welfare and pesticides.

Concern is high among the EU 27 that London will use Brexit to unfairly attract international investment by slashing tax and regulations as well as by breaking the bloc's strict rules against subsidies.

The motion said Britain must stick to EU standards on taxatoin and measures to crack down on tax avoidance, particularly in its overseas territories like the Cayman Islands and Jersey.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier welcomed the resolution.

"We share the same analysis," he said. "Looking at the red lines of the UK means one thing -- a free trade agreement.

"But I think that we have much more to do with the UK for the long term than trade only.

EU leaders have been pressing May to clarify what she wants before they agree their position on the future economic partnership at a summit later this month.

A series of speeches by May and her senior ministers have done little to satisfy Brussels.

On Tuesday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that with just a year to go before Britain leaves the bloc, the time had come to "translate speeches into treaties".

© 2018 AFP

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