STATE OF PLAY
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the EU that unless there is a “fundamental change of approach” to negotiations on their part, the UK and EU will not reach a post-Brexit trade agreement. Giving an interview in Downing Street, Johnson, who had previously set 14 October as the deadline to conclude any deal, said that the EU had “abandoned” its ambition to reach an agreement and urged UK businesses to prepare for an ‘Australian’ scenario from 1 January “based on simple principles of global free trade”. In response, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the “EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price”.
The Government increased its no-deal rhetoric, with the PM’s spokesperson saying that “trade talks are over”, and that “there is no point” in EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier travelling to London next week unless the EU is “prepared to discuss all the issues on the basis of legal texts in an accelerated way.” The escalation comes after both Boris Johnson and UK Chief Negotiator David Frost expressed “disappointment” on the lack of progress during the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels this week, where UK officials claimed the “atmospherics were not good”.
The Times reports that Downing Street has also indicated that if the UK were to walk away from trade talks it would not be the first party to later propose restarting negotiations, believing that this may encourage the EU to make concessions.
Meanwhile, Michel Barnier has proposed a two-week extension to negotiations and offered to work through the weekend “to intensify” talks, saying that “we want to give these negotiations every chance of being successful.” It follows reports that Barnier and Frost have agreed to hold talks throughout November if a wider agreement cannot be reached, to conclude “mini-deals” in areas such as aviation and road transport and to offset the most disruptive aspects of a no-deal Brexit.
Separately, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič have agreed to hold the fourth meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee, the body responsible for the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, in London on 19 October.
OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS
· UK Treasury and Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew, who oversees Brexit border preparations, has accused business associations of taking a “head in the sand approach” to preparing for the end of the transition period.
· The UK Department for Business has announced that it will hold a series of webinars throughout October to help firms’ ramp-up preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period.
· Tesco Chairman John Allan has warned that the UK risks short-term shortages of fresh food at the end of the transition period.
· Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the UK is yet to conclude a legal framework with the EU to establish an ‘open skies’ air transport agreement.
· The UK Road Haulage Association has warned that “Time is desperately short” to clarify border arrangements for lorries and goods crossing between Wales and Ireland, saying that the Government’s proposals were “slim on detail”.
· Three leading European business organisations – BDI, Confindustria, and Medef – have called on EU leaders to “explore all possible options”” to conclude a trade deal with the UK.
· The UK Government has laid a Statutory Instrument in Parliament to formally establish by what methods UK REACH will manage post-Brexit chemical regulations, particularly relating to implementing the Northern Ireland protocol.
· The UK Chemical Industry Association and European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) have warned that a no-deal Brexit would damage highly integrated EU-UK chemical supply chains, and create the potential for regulatory divergence.
Many thanks for last week’s Brexit transition round-up compiled by public affairs and communications consultant Nicky Donnelly.