Brussels mulls excluding UK from updates on trade talks

Brussels mulls excluding UK from updates on trade talks

The EU is considering shutting the U.K. out of sensitive briefings on its trade policy, following warnings that Britain will become a competitor for striking trade deals post-Brexit.

The European Commission, in a briefing with its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier last month, warned that there needs to be a “discussion about the treatment of sensitive information in the context of certain trade negotiations, to which the U.K, would continue to have access to while it remained a full member of the union,†the Financial Times reported Friday.

At issue is the Trade Policy Committee, where trade attachés from the 28 EU countries meet on a weekly basis to discuss ongoing or planned negotiations and give strategic directives. The Commission, which negotiates trade deals for the EU members, regularly joins those meetings to give updates on the talks.

Sources in the Trade Policy Committee confirmed to POLITICO that the Commission’s concern had also been raised among EU countries, although it is unclear whether the U.K. legally can be excluded as long as it remains an EU member.

On Thursday, the EU finished preparations for trade negotiations with Australia — the same country with which the U.K. is launching preliminary talks. London also wants to engage with other EU negotiation partners including India, New Zealand or the Philippines.

A U.K. government spokeswoman told the FT that “the U.K. remains a member of the EU with all the rights and obligations that entails and we will continue to play our full role.â€