UK alignment on EU standards price to pay for trade deal, say MEPs


Vote comes as bloc wields its powers to force change in UK domestic law during transition

The MEP Nathalie Loiseau says partnership with UK must not be at expense of EU standards.Photograph: Yann Bohac/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

The European parliament has called on Michel Barnier to keep Britain permanently tied to its employment, environment and competition laws as the price for maintaining free trade with the EU. In a resolution adopted by 543 votes to 39, with 69 abstentions, MEPs said there needed to be "dynamic alignment" with EU standards across a range of issues. As MEPs gave their seal of approval for the maximalist position, the European commission for the first time wielded its powers under the withdrawal agreement to order the British government to change its domestic law, despite the country having left the EU two weeks ago.

Under the terms of the transition period, during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union but none of Brussels's decision-making institutions, EU law continues to be superior to UK national law. The government was given two months by the commission to amend a levy on heavy trucks on which UK-registered drivers can get a discount. The EU's executive branch said the levy discriminated against those based in member states.

It highlights the uncomfortable position for the government for the next 11 months, during which the country will be in what Boris Johnson has previously described as a position of "vassalage". The resolution, passed by the European parliament on Wednesday, called for EU regulations to continue to set the standard for British lawmakers past 2020. MEPs said there was a need to avoid a "race to the bottom" as they backed dynamic alignment of UK law with the EU's.

The MEP Nathalie Loiseau, a former French minister for EU affairs and a member of the parliament's UK coordination group, said: "The European parliament has proposed a broad, deep and sustainable partnership that is unprecedented in scope and ambition to the UK. "This offer comes with balanced obligations: we will not compromise on what we stand for: high standards we have to protect consumers, workers, privacy and personal data of citizens or to protect the environment."


From Brefusal to Brexit: a history of Britain in the EU

After 47 years and 30 days it is all over. As the clock strikes 11pm on Friday, the UK is officially divorced from the EU and will begin trying to carve out a new global role as a sovereign nation.

It was a union that got off to a tricky start and continued to be marked by the UK's sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbours. Here's a run-through the beginning, the middle and the end.

1961 Brefusal

The French president, Charles de Gaulle, vetoes Britain's entry to EEC, accusing the UK of a "deep-seated hostility" towards the European project.

1975 Brentry

Sir Edward Heath signs the accession treaty giving entry to the EEC in an official ceremony that was accompanied by a torch-lit rally, dickie-bowed officials and a procession of political leaders including former prime ministers Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home.
Lisa O'Carroll

1975 Referendum

The UK decides to stay in the common market after 67% voted "yes". Margaret Thatcher, later to be leader of the Conservative party, campaigned to remain.

1984 'Give us our money back'

Margaret Thatcher negotiated what became known as the UK rebate with other EU members after the "iron lady" marched into the former French royal palace at Fontainebleau to demand "our own money back" claiming for every GBP2 contributed we get only GBP1 back" despite being one of the "three poorer" members of the community.

It was a move that sowed the seeds of Tory Euroscepticism that was to later cause the Brexit schism in the party. 

1988 The Bruges speech

Thatcher served notice on the EU community in a defining moment in EU politics in which she questioned the expansionist plans of Jacques Delors, who had remarked that 80% of all decisions on economic and social policy would be made by the European Community within 10 years with a European government in "embryo". That was a bridge too far for Thatcher.

1989 The cold war ends

Collapse of Berlin wall and fall of communism in eastern Europe, which would later lead to expansion of EU.

1990 'No, no, no'

Divisions between the UK and the EU deepened with Thatcher telling the Commons in an infamous speech it was 'no, no, no' to what she saw as Delors' continued power grab. Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper ratchets up its opposition to Europe with a two-fingered "Up yours Delors" front page.

1992 Black Wednesday

A collapse in the pound forced prime minister John Major and the then chancellor Norman Lamont to pull the UK out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

1993 The single market

On 1 January, customs checks and duties were removed across the bloc.

Thatcher hailed the vision of "a single market without barriers - visible or invisible - giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world's wealthiest and most prosperous people".

1993 Maastricht treaty

Tory rebels vote against the treaty that paved the way for the creation of the European Union. John Major won the vote the following day in a pyrrhic victory. 

1997 Repairing the relationship

Tony Blair patches up the relationship. Signs up to social charter and workers' rights.

31 January 1999 Ukip

Nigel Farage elected an MEP and immediately goes on the offensive in Brussels. "Our interests are best served by not being a member of this club," he said in his maiden speech. "The level playing field is about as level as the decks of the Titanic after it hit an iceberg."

2003 The euro

Chancellor Gordon Brown decides the UK will not join the euro.


EU enlarges to to include eight countries of the former eastern bloc including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.


EU expands again, allowing Romania and Bulgaria into the club.

2015 Migrant crisis

Anti-immigration hysteria seems to take hold with references to "cockroches" by Katie Hopkins in the Sun and tabloid headlines such as "How many more can we take?" and "Calais crisis: send in the dogs".

February 2016

 David Cameron returns with reform package.

June 2016 Brexit referendum

January 2020 Britain leaves the EU

Was this helpful? Thank you for your feedback.

The resolution also urged Johnson to "immediately clarify" his government's approach to the Irish border agreement, following his repeated claims that no checks would be required on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The MEPs sought to include gender equality in trade talks, with measures to combat the pay gap, and recommended the UK should not be a net beneficiary of any EU programmes, threatening Britain's research funding. The vote came as EU member states met in Brussels to further toughen up the negotiating mandate proposed by Barnier, their chief Brexit negotiator, ahead of negotiations with the UK next month. Under Barnier's opening proposal the UK would need to commit to non-regression from current environmental, social and workers standards and would be tied into upgrading its legislation in the field of competition policy and state subsidies as EU positions develop in the years to come.

France is among the member states which believes the EU needs a tougher negotiating stance.

Its final position will be adopted by member states on 25 February.


You may also like...