LONDON-They say an army marches on its stomach. The European Union does it with slides. The EU negotiating team is gearing up for talks with the UK about the post-Brexit relationship by holding a series of seminars for diplomats from the 27 member states.

The presentations are being published online. Stuffed with jargon and seriously lacking in inspirational clipart, they provide important clues about how things might play out. Remember the Political Declaration? Known in Brussels as “the PD”, it’s the 26-page sketch of the future relationship agreed alongside the 600-page Withdrawal Agreement, which settled the terms of the UK’s departure.

FTA, you say?

One of the sessions for diplomats was about the centrepiece of the new relationship with the UK - the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

This presentation was full of the EU’s usual catch-phrases about this stuff: being out can’t be as good as being in, there’s no way to replicate membership of the single market without the free movement of people, etc etc.

In the Theresa May era, this would read like a comprehensive rejection by Brussels of requests made by the UK.

It doesn’t feel that way, now that there’s a new British government which is relaxed about a looser economic relationship and can live with some friction in its trade with the EU.

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But the EU thinks the UK still has to be reminded about what it can and can’t get.

And the message on financial services in the slides is unambiguous: “not subject to negotiation.” That’s because both sides will use existing ways of monitoring each other’s regulations rather than inventing new ones.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a level playing field was needed to ensure the single market and customs union were “not diluted”

The EU intends that the level playing field will cover taxation, labour relations and environmental policies, and government support for companies, known as “state aid.” The main tool will be a promise not to fall below current shared standards known as the non-regression clause. But the EU has introduced an extra concept via the slides - “non-lowering”.

At first this sounds the same as non-regression but it means that if one party raises standards then there’s a possibility they may never be allowed to be lowered again. This goes beyond merely maintaining existing standards.

And the EU wants the UK to stay in lock-step with European policies on the environment and state aid as they develop.

It’s described in the presentations to diplomats as an “ambition to improve over time”, but in negotiating parlance is called “dynamic alignment”. This is a massive no-no for the British government and will likely cause a big row.

Jointly committed

The EU negotiators think this will all have to be managed and they place great importance on an “overarching governance framework”, part of which would be a joint committee of ministers and officials.