Feb. 3 (UPI) -- With Britain now gone from the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday he sees "no need" to align with EU standards on a number of issues to reach an agreement with the bloc in the coming months detailing their post-Brexit relationship.
Johnson, in his first major speech since London officially withdrew from the EU on Friday, said Britain doesn't need to accept the coalition's rules on "competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept U.K. rules."
Upon leaving the EU Friday, Britain entered an 11-month transitional period during which it will essentially remain a member of the bloc as the two sides negotiate terms on trade and other aspects.
EU officials have insisted that for Britain, as a non-member, to have access to the bloc's lucrative single market with no tariffs or customs checks at borders, it must adapt its own national rules to match those of the EU's on a wide range of issues -- what it calls the level playing field.
Johnson said he'll seek a deal similar to that between the EU and Canada, which eliminated tariffs on most imports and exports and required limited regulatory alignment. But the prime minister said he feels no obligation to adopt the level playing field, warning that if no deal is in place by the end of this year he's willing to accept a much looser "Australia-style" relationship, under which Britain would basically trade with the EU under default World Trade Organization rules.
"We have made our choice -- we want a free trade agreement, similar to Canada's but in the very unlikely event that we do not succeed, then our trade will have to be based on our existing Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
"The choice is emphatically not 'deal or no deal.' The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada's -- or more like Australia's."
EU leaders, making their initial appearances Monday after the historic exit, again said regulatory alignment is necessary if London wants customs-free access to its markets.
Chief EU trade negotiator Michel Barnier pointed to commitments from Johnson in the non-binding political declaration section of the Brexit agreement to upholding EU standards in state aid, competition, social and environmental standards, climate change and tax.
"There are some very clear words there," he said. "A full chapter that talks about the description of the level playing field and the objective of having fair and open competition."
Britain and the 27-member coalition will begin negotiating in March.