UK EU negotiating mandates compared

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Negotiations between the EU and UK formally began on March 2 2020. Both sides have published a mandate for their respective negotiating objectives, which aims to build on the political declaration which accompanied the withdrawal agreement. Here we take a look at the two sides mandates and how they compare and their potential implications for agriculture where there are areas of divergence.


What the UK wants

What the EU wants

What does this mean for agriculture?

Trade in goods

  • No tariffs or quotas
  • Maintain its own rules and regulations, however there should be regulatory co-operation to address technical barriers to trade
  • Suggests possibility of ‘equivalence’ in some areas of agrifood based on similar arrangements between EU-NZ and EU-Canada
  • No provisions to be able to apply Special Agricultural Safeguard measures to limit imports
  • No tariffs or quotas
  • Legal commitments to a level playing field
  • EU standards as a benchmark which UK must meet
  • Maintain its standard approach to rules of origin
  • Special Agricultural Safeguard measures, can be used to limit imports
  • Both sides want to remove tariffs, which is a positive for agricultural trade. But there is insistence from the EU on a level playing field.. This will require that the UK will have to have the same or higher regulatory framework with regards to environmental commitments and agricultural production going forward.
  • UKs ask for mutual recognition and equivalence agreements would not completely remove regulatory burdens however would simplify the customs clearing process.
  • If Agricultural Safeguard Measures were put in place it would see each member be able to place ‘triggers’ which can place additional duties on certain products if imports of those products got over the safeguard limit in a particular period.

Intellectual property

  • The UK will ‘keep its approach under review’ when it comes to recognising new geographical indicators (GIs)
  • Should keep the same level of protection for GIs, as set out in the withdrawal agreement. i.e the UK should continue to adopt new GIs going forward
  • For agriculture, GIs exsist in both the UK and the EU (e.g  Scotch Whisky, Champagne etc.) The EU is keen to protect these and has been a sticking point in other negotiations (e.g USA). The UK has stated that it will recognise current GIs, but may not continue to do so for new GIs, which may prove a contentious issue in upcoming negotiations


  • The UK and the EU should continue to allow commercial road vehicles like hauliers to operate to, from and through each other’s territories, with no quantitative restrictions
  • The UK should not have to follow EU standards on road matters and be free to regulate its own domestic haulage and transport industry.
  • There should be bilateral access for UK-EU road freight, but the UKs rights and benefits will not be at the same level as between EU member states
  • Common level of right and protections level playing field rules.
  • Much of UKs export to the EU is done by road freight. With the UK and EU at slightly differing stances on the access to each other’s transport network. This could likely place an increased administration burden and therefore price pressure on UK products. Despite the UK wanting greater regulatory freedom. 

Level playing field

  • The UK will not agree to measures that go beyond a typical FTA.
  • Commitments to international standards and avoid distorting trade
  • UK does not want these provisions to be subject to dispute resolution
  • Makes it clear that the geographic proximity and economic interdependence means there must be robust level playing field commitments maintained over time
  • Both sides must meet the same high standards and should be commensurate with the overall partnership
  • Particularly vocal about equivalence of state aid
  • Broad regulatory approaches should be maintained and UK should not regress from EU standards in place at the end of the transition period
  • Potentially the biggest area of difference in the negotiating mandates.
  • This will be particularly pertinent to new environmental regulations as well as any changes in pesticide/fertiliser or biotech regulations that the UK may want to implement.
  • The UK Government has indicated that it wishes to move towards a more science-based approach to regulatory framework, which could include a move to risk-based regulations as opposed to the current hazard-based approach.