But after that the language becomes distinctly undiplomatic. Frost declared the UK “perplexed” by the EU’s rejection of the UK’s precedents from other trade deals and insistence on adding “unbalanced, unprecedented” provisions.
Indeed, Frost went on to give a list of examples where the EU was offering the UK less than it had offered other trading partners in earlier negotiations – arguing that the UK was being treated worse than the likes of Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile.
Then Frost came back to the familiar UK complaint about the onerous (but well-trailed) level playing field provisions, designed to ensure that the UK could not go rogue and undercut EU standards, and asymmetric rules on state aids – business subsidies.
The Frost letter reads more like the arguments of a barrister in a court of law. But the problem for Frost is that trade negotiations are not like legal arguments: there is no obligation at all on the EU to offer the UK the same as it has offered other countries before.
Frost’s complaints about the EU’s unreasonableness are unlikely to make many in the UK taskforce, or in distracted national capitals trying to cope with Covid, change their minds. The letter reads like a rather whiny child complaining that the big kid isn’t playing by the rules.
What Frost failed to set out is any of the benefits to the EU of the sort of agreements the UK was offering: why the EU would do much better to reach a position where a deal with the UK was possible, rather than let the UK float off with no deal.
And Frost failed to give any hint of any understanding of the EU’s concerns – and how the UK’s proposals helped address them.