France is once again finding itself as the isolated black sheep in the EU, opposing the UK in the ongoing negotiations on electric vehicle trade between Brexit Britain and the Brussels bloc.
Reminiscent of Paris’s inflexible position during the Brexit negotiations, France is finding itself cornered in its opposition to the UK’s stance on electric vehicles.
Emmanuel Macron’s EU allies, particularly Germany, are showing support and flexibility towards Britain’s proposals.
The issue on the table is the imminent 10 per cent tariff slated for implementation in January, targeting vehicles that fail to meet stringent regulations concerning the sourcing of components for electric vehicle batteries.
This impending tariff has raised alarm bells in the UK, as it threatens to harm automakers on both sides of the English Channel.
The UK has advocated for an extension of the deadline to allow the industry more time to adapt. This plea was officially conveyed during a meeting with EU counterparts on Wednesday.
Notably, the UK has found an unexpected ally in Germany, whose automotive industry is already grappling with challenges. In addition to the post-Brexit tariffs, Brussels has announced plans to initiate an investigation into Chinese subsidies for electric vehicles.
This investigation carries the potential to adversely affect major European carmakers, such as Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes, given their extensive exposure to the expansive Chinese market.
During a recent European meeting, several countries with substantial automotive industries, including Sweden, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Italy, threw their weight behind Germany’s position.
Three unnamed EU diplomats told Politico that from the meeting, France emerged as the lone EU member state vehemently opposing the UK’s stance.
The division over electric vehicle trade regulations also runs deep within the European Commission itself. While the EU’s executive body is ostensibly committed to upholding the terms of the post-Brexit agreement, some members, notably Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and others, assert that the UK’s concessions could jeopardise the European battery industry and the EU’s efforts to reduce its dependence on China.
One EU diplomat branded any postponement as a potential “political shock” from the Commission, deeming it an unlikely scenario, particularly as the Commission explores the possibility of imposing additional tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles.
Nonetheless, the Commission remains divided, with EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis aligning with London’s call for greater flexibility, at least in the short term.
The responsibility for resolving this deadlock now rests with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.