The EU has laid down its red lines for trade talks with Britain – setting up a huge clash with Boris Johnson ’s government.
Downing Street accused the EU of offering the UK a worse trade deal than that for other major economies, such as Canada, Australia and Japan.
A No.10 spokesman said: “We just want the same.”
The Government also claimed other trade deals between neighbours, such as the US, Canada and Mexico, did not include the kind of “onerous commitments” sought by Brussels.
Boris Johnson wants a Canada-style agreement with the EU, with zero tariffs, but says he is prepared to walk away without any agreement.
But Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the geographical proximity of the UK meant the rules “cannot be the same”.
He warned there could be no backtracking by the UK on commitments it had already made. He said: “If we want to build up a relationship in the long term based on trust with the UK, we need to make sure that we have trust in the short term.”
But No.10 already appeared to be distancing itself from the “level playing field” commitments it signed up to. The PM’s spokesman said: “Level playing field is an EU construct, not a piece of terminology we use.”
Mr Barnier said the bloc would not agree a deal “at any price” and added fishing rights must be on the table or there won’t be any agreement at all.
The Government said its biggest priority was to avoid taking any rules from the EU, even if it means no deal.