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The UK Government has reportedly reopened the issue of European speciality food and drink products, such as Roquefort cheese and champagne, in Brexit trade talks.
According to a report in The Guardian citing two unnamed EU sources, a draft free-trade agreement which was handed to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier included a British proposal on protected status for food and drink.
The move is said to have left Barnier “a little bit flabbergasted”, as the withdrawal agreement signed last October preserves the status of thousands of speciality products from being recreated anywhere else in the world under the EU’s Geographical Indications (GI) policy.
The EU sources say the UK is seeking to weaken the status of EU products while ensuring that British products – such as Scotch whisky and Cornish pasties – remain protected. EU officials have ruled out this idea, with one official cited as saying “It’s just not going to happen”.
However, the UK government has disputed the EU description of the proposal and said that the bloc is attempting to tie Britain to European standards. An unnamed official said the proposal was “in line with the withdrawal agreement” and would give special status to existing and future products for both sides under the UK’s new domestic protection regime.
Speciality food and drink products hold an important place in the trade talks. Sandro Gozi, an Italian MEP told The Guardian that Geographical Indications are “the priority number one of any new trade agreement for the EU”.
Negotiators have set a deadline of late October to settle on a trade deal, giving the EU another two months to finish and ratify the treaty before the end of the Brexit transition period on the 31st of December.
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