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EU-UK trade deal cannot allow 'race to the bottom' - EU's Barnier

BRUSSELS, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The European Union's central interest in forging a free trade agreement with Britain is to agree common social and environmental standards and avoid a "race to the bottom", the EU chief Brexit negotiator wrote in an opinion piece.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there would be no alignment with EU rules under the terms of a trade deal he wants to strike with the bloc next year.

The EU's negotiator Michel Barnier wrote in a piece on the Project Syndicate website dated Dec. 20 that the European Union would seek to make the most of the short time available.

"But like the UK, we will keep our strategic interests in mind," Barnier wrote.

"We know that competing on social and environmental standards rather than on skills, innovation, and quality leads only to a race to the bottom that puts workers, consumers, and the planet on the losing side."

Any free trade agreement with Britain would then have to ensure a level playing field on standards, state aid and tax matters.

Barnier also wrote that any new economic agreement forged by the end of 2020 would most likely have to be expanded in the years to come. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop Editing by Ros Russell)