British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will start the two-year negotiation process by the end of March
A troubled trade deal between the EU and Canada is the only model for a future pact between the bloc and post-Brexit Britain, Spain's Foreign Minister said Monday.
Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the Canada agreement was a far closer fit than often-cited deals between the European Union and Norway or Switzerland.
"The deal with Canada is the precedent of the deal between the EU and Britain," Garcia-Margallo told reporters before talks with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.
"The deal is important in itself and as a model" for a deal with Britain, he added.
Seven years in negotiation, the Canada-EU trade deal has stumbled in the final stretch after the Belgian region of Wallonia blocked it just days before its planned signature on October 27.
But the Spanish minister urged the EU to overcome the hurdle, given the Canada deal's role as a template for relations with London following Britain's shock June referendum vote to leave the bloc.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will start the two-year negotiation process by the end of March, but her government is divided over keeping access to the EU's single market and limiting migration by EU citizens.
"Forget the Norwegian model, forget the Swiss model because of the condition for the freedom of movement of people, and forget a Turkish-style customs union," Garcia-Margallo said.
"If the British insist on having the option to restrain the free movement of European workers to the United Kingdom ... the only solution is the Canadian one," he said.
Except for a few sensitive agricultural products, the EU-Canada deal, known as CETA, abolishes virtually all tariffs between Canada and the EU.
But activists charge that CETA will set a dangerous precedent and open the way for a similar but far more ambitious agreement with the United States, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).