(Bloomberg) — U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said the trade deal reached with the European Union should reassure people worried about the economic damage of Brexit and can be an â€œenormously unifying moment for our country.â€
London will continue discussions with Brussels over access and equivalence for financial services, the chancellor said on Sunday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the agreement did not go as far as he wants for the sector.
The deal, which will be voted on by lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday, â€œgives us a strong platform to look forward optimistically and put the divisions of the past behind us,â€ Sunak said in a pooled TV interview. â€œFor those who were anxious about the economic implications of leaving, they should be enormously reassured by the comprehensive nature of this free trade agreement.â€
Johnson conceded in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that the agreement â€œperhaps does not go as far as we would likeâ€ on financial services, though said it offers â€œaccess for solicitors, barristersâ€ and a â€œgood deal for digital.â€
There is little clarity for financial firms and no decision on so-called equivalence, which would allow firms to sell their services into the single market from the City of London. The agreement only features standard provisions on financial services, meaning it doesnâ€™t include commitments on market access.
Sunak said it gives a â€œstable regulatory co-operative frameworkâ€ and â€œwe will remain in close dialogue with our European partners when it comes to things like equivalence decisions.â€
Anneliese Dodds, economy spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, said ministers should do everything possible to provide certainty for businesses.
Video: UK and EU have struck an historic trade deal. But what is in it? (Al Jazeera)
â€œThere are big areas, like financial services, where we need to see the Conservative government acting in a much more concerted way to get an agreement so we can ensure we keep jobs in our country,â€ she told Sky News. â€œThey really need to focus on this far more.â€
There was also a warning for Johnsonâ€™s government from across the Irish Sea, where Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said any reduction of standards in the U.K. could lead to reduced access to the EU market.
â€œThey have agreed to a non-regression clause in all but name, so we said you can only have access to the market if you donâ€™t reduce your standards when it comes to workersâ€™ rights, the environment, health and safety, product standards, all of those things,â€ Varadkar told Newstalk radio.
â€œIf they do reduce their standards, or if they donâ€™t keep up with our standards, then that access to our market could be threatened,â€ he said. â€œSo they do still have to largely follow European rules where theyâ€™re relevant.â€
Some senior lawmakers from Johnsonâ€™s Conservative Party complained there will not be enough time to properly scrutinize the deal when Parliament debates and votes on it on Wednesday.
While the legislation is expected to pass easily as Labour has indicated it will back the deal rather than risk the economic damage of a no-deal divorce from the EU, dissent among Johnsonâ€™s rank-and-file lawmakers may spell trouble for the future.
â€œWhatever you think of this treaty, it is going to affect the rest of our lives,â€ former Brexit Secretary David Davis told the Observer. â€œIt does require more than just a rubber stamp.â€
(Updates with Dodds in seventh paragraph, Varadkar in ninth)
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