With 34 days until the end of the transition period, Nicky Donnelly has given haleys a latest update into the latest goings on as Britain continues negotiations with the EU.

STATE OF PLAY

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier joined face-to-face Brexit talks in the UK last Saturday . The announcement, which was shared during a briefing to EU ambassadors and MEP’s on Friday, came after initial reports suggested he was unwilling to travel for more “probably pointless” discussions, unless the UK compromised on the remaining three controversial issues. The decision is aimed at avoiding a major crisis in the negotiations. 

Earlier in the week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that any deal must not undermine the EU single market, reassuring the European Parliament that while the EU “will do all in our power to reach an agreement, we’re ready to be creative”, the UK must agree to fair trade rules.

The mood music is this next week could be ‘make or break’, as the European Parliament would likely not be able to ratify a deal agreed any later before 1 January. The option of a provisional application procedure — where the Parliament’s vote would take place only in 2021, after a provisional entry into force of the deal — has been rejected by the Chair of the Parliament’s Trade Committee, Bernd Lange. 

In the meantime, speaking at a conference hosted by industry group Logistics UK, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that disruption at the Kent border from 1 January, when the Brexit transition period ends, is “inevitable”.

However, he hopes there would be no more than “two to three weeks” of disruption before “steady, smooth and effective operation of our border systems” begins. He added that the EU’s “rules are rules” approach could also increase delays. 

Gove’s comments came as tests on border checking procedures at the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkstone conducted by French authorities resulted in a five-mile traffic jam on the Kent motorway.

Similarly, the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) expects ‘mayhem’ at Holyhead port – the second biggest “roll-on roll-off” port in the UK – during the first six months of 2021, as the port’s border-ready pre-boarding IT systems have not been tested for outbound travel yet.

OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS 

  • The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the public forecasting body, said that real GDP would be 1.5% lower in five years than its current central GDP assumption if a UK-EU trade deal is not agreed, and warned that the effects of new tariffs and trade barriers would disproportionately affect sectors that otherwise would have come through Covid-19 reasonably unscathed. Similarly, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would cause more long-term damage to the UK economy than the pandemic.
  • President-elect Joe Biden has warned that the US does not want a “guarded border” between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland following Brexit. Biden has previously said that any UK-US post-Brexit trade deal had to be ‘contingent’ on respect for the Good Friday Agreement. 
  • The European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs has told the Telegraph that they would vote against any UK-EU trade deal if it threatens national sovereignty. 
  • The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), which regulates financial markets in the EU,has said that it will not relax rules on the trading of swaps and derivatives when the Brexit transition period ends, meaning that UK branches of European banks will have to comply with both UK and EU rules after 31 December 2020. 

NEW TRADE DEALS

  • The UK has secured a trade deal with Canada. The deal rolls over the terms of the existing agreement between the EU and Canada when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.  The government is expected to start to negotiate a more advanced deal next year.