BREXIT negotiations for a trade deal between the UK and EU are ongoing, but can a deal be reached this month?
The eighth round of Brexit negotiations are taking place this week between the EU and the UK. After the UK left the EU on January 31, 2020, it was agreed a transition period would be in place until December 31, 2020. During this time the EU and the UK need to agree a trade deal, or risk a no-deal Brexit by leaving without any trade deal at all.
This week the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, arrived in London for trade deal talks with the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated he wants a trade deal with the EU to be secured by mid-October.
And although it’s possible a trade deal could be agreed this month, at the moment it seems increasingly unlikely.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost said: “Today, I will sit down with Michel Barnier and drive home our clear message that we must make progress this week if we are to reach an agreement in time.
“We have now been talking for six months and can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground.
“We need to see more realism from the EU about our status as an independent country.”
Mr Frost signalled the UK will continue to prepare for no-deal, adding: “If they can’t do that in the very limited time we have left then we will be trading on terms like those the EU has with Australia, and we are ramping up our preparations for the end of the year.”
This week a senior minister confirmed the Government’s plan to override some elements of the existing Brexit deal with Brussels in the case of no trade deal being agreed.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson, which has the status of an international treaty.
The Government’s Internal Market Bill will be introduced on Wednesday, and it has been cited as one of the Government’s back-up plans in case trade talks between the UK and EU fail.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs the legislation would ensure Northern Ireland could continue to enjoy access to markets in the rest of the UK, but acknowledged it would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”.
The Government wants to ensure goods from Northern Ireland continue to have access to the British market and that EU state aid rules – which will continue to apply to Northern Ireland – will not apply in the rest of Britain.
The Government has stressed the Internal Market Bill changes are only “limited clarifications” to protect the peace process in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
But the announcement has been met with heavy criticism in the House of Commons.
Senior Tory MP Sir Bob Neill asked Mr Lewis whether they were consistent with UK’s international legal obligations, and Mr Lewis said: “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.”
Sir Bob tweeted: “Any breach, or potential breach, of the international legal obligations we have entered into is unacceptable, regardless of whether it’s in a ‘specific’ or ‘limited way’.”
Mr Barnier said ahead of his departure from the UK from this week’s talks he would seek reassurance the UK will not U-turn on its previous commitments.
Further details on the Government’s policy are expected to be announced on Wednesday.
The latest development at Westminster is one of many issues to have arisen during recent trade talks.
Another point of contention amid the UK and EU talks has been the issue of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The Government is currently trying to get its Fisheries Bill approved in Parliament, which would enable the UK to become an independent coastal state after the transition period is over.
Under the tabled legislation, all fishing boats from outside of the UK would not be able to fish in British waters unless they are granted a licence.
Under the current Common Fisheries Policy, all countries involved have access to each other’s waters, subject to annual quotas.
The EU refused to discuss fishing access to British waters until a state aid plan has been set out, but the UK has so far refused to do this.
The EU also wishes for the UK to agree to quota sharing, to allow EU boats to continue to fish in British waters, but the Government is not supporting this.