January 29, 2020 / 4:17 PM / 25 days ago

EU executive sets fair competition as condition of post-Brexit trade deal

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a College of European Commissioners in Brussels, Belgium, January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Britain on Wednesday that solid guarantees of free competition were a precondition to a new trade agreement with the EU after Brexit.

Speaking at a plenary session of the European Parliament that was due to give its final approval for Britain’s divorce deal later on Wednesday, von der Leyen said the two should go on working hand-in-hand on climate and security.

“We are considering a zero-tariff, zero-quotas free trade agreement. But the precondition is that EU and British businesses continue to compete on a level playing field, we will certainly not expose our companies to unfair competition.”

Von der Leyen said the EU would be “vigilant” on how the divorce deal is implemented on the sensitive Irish border and that no new relationship would replicate the benefits of membership for Britain.

“I want the EU and the UK to stay good friends and good partners,” she said. “We will always love you and we will never be far, long live Europe.”

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Marine Strauss; Editing by John Chalmers

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