A “CETA plus plus” with the UK, Charles Michel advocates
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    A “CETA plus plus” with the UK, Charles Michel advocates

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Prime Minister Charles Michel hopes that forthcoming negotiations to determine the future relation between the EU and the United Kingdom will lead to a “CETA plus plus,” he explained Monday to Parliament at an advisory committee on European matters.

    Heads of State and of Government will put their heads together on the Brexit dossier once again on Friday in Brussels. Mr. Michel agrees with the European Commission’s analysis according to which the talks with London on the divorce terms have made sufficient progress to begin negotiations on the future relation between the EU and Great Britain.

    The European executive considers the trade agreement recently concluded with Canada — the CETA — to be an appropriate source of inspiration.

    Before the deputies, Mr. Michel said he wishes at the outset to play a “proactive role” to reach an agreement that will allow Belgium to keep trade relations with the other side of the Channel “as strong as possible.”

    The Head of Government recalled that Belgium and Great Britain also share other interests, especially in geopolitical or security matters, such as the fight against terrorism. It is then necessary to reach a “CETA plus plus,” the Wavre politician insisted on.

    The mention of the CETA immediately reminds of the ferocious opposition that this treaty had triggered in Walloon, the PS-cdH majority in place at that time threatening to block the adoption of the text.

    For the benefit of Senator Christophe Lacroix (PS), Mr. Michel made a point in specifying on Monday that he would keep permanent dialogue on this matter with the federated entities, as it once was the case, according to him, before the media storm broke over the treaty with Canada in the Fall of 2016.

    As for Deputy Dirk Van der Maelen (sp.a), he worried about a British tax competition, and recommends therefore the installation of a working group to follow these negotiations with the United Kingdom closely. Patrick Dewael (Open Vld), for his part, has reminded that Great Britain represents 8.2% of Belgian export.

    According to the Prime Minister, the EU Member States should agree before the end of January on a negotiation mandate in order to determine the transition period that will begin after the British withdrawal in 2019.

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times