Given the zero-tariff and zero-quota nature of the TCA, the EU’s initial request was to push for strict level playing field rules. The TCA provides for a more flexible mechanism that does not oblige the UK to align with EU legislation but prevents both sides from using their regulatory autonomy to grant unfair subsidies to businesses or distort competition. Key areas such as environmental protection and climate change, social and labour standards, transport, energy, tax transparency and state aid will of course see disagreements in the future but time will tell how the parties address this through the TCA.
And despite some criticism of the final commitments (deemed by some to not be strong enough to avoid divergence in standards in the future) EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier claimed that the agreed rules on workers’ rights, the environment and subsidies will in fact be “the hallmark” for all future EU trade agreements. A review of these rules will take place after four years to ensure the level playing field is working efficiently.