EU open to easing new trade bureaucracy but only if UK ditches 'Singapore-on-Thames' strategy

Thu 21 Jan 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit talks

The door is open for the UK to ease some of the friction caused by new rules for trade with the EU, but only if it falls into line with European rules elsewhere

A senior EU diplomatic source told the Times that talks could happen, but that suggestions of UK deregulation made it less likely.

“Discussing further facilitation or ways to reduce friction would depend on what the UK is doing and where they want to go,” they said.

There have been delays for goods crossing the UK border recently due to confusion over new rules and procedures following the end of the transition period.


The EU will not discuss easing customs measures or making paperwork easier if the UK embraces the high subsidy and low regulation Singapore model.

European sources said that creating a “Singapore on the Thames and increasing the working week” beyond EU rules would politically rule out any negotiations.

The UK is currently reviewing labour regulations, particularly the 48-hour week enshrined in the EU Working Time Directive.

Wholesale repeal of the regulation would mark a clear diversion from EU standards, reports the FT.

Diplomatic row

Meanwhile, the UK’s decision to not give the EU’s ambassador in London full diplomatic status has caused frustration in Brussels.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is insisting Joao Vale de Almeida and his officials should not have the privileges and immunities afforded to diplomats under the Vienna Convention, the BBC reports.

An EU source called the move “petty”.

“What does it say about the UK, about how much the British signature is worth?” they said.

Some in the EU fear hostile states might copy the UK and downgrade the protections granted to EU diplomats in their own countries.