STATE OF PLAY

The UK and the EU showed some convergence on social security and law enforcement in the 7th round of negotiations. However, there was no progress on the most contentious issues, such as fisheries and the level playing field. Similarly, the Commission continued to reject demands for continued wide-ranging access to the EU for British truckers, and a UK request for a migration pact that would allow the Government to return asylum seekers to other European countries.

In a statement, UK Chief Brexit Negotiator David Frost complained that “the EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts”, adding that “this makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress”. Similar comments were made by his counterpart Michel Barnier who said that “too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forward. Given the short time left … today at this stage an agreement between the UK and the European Union seems unlikely. I still do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.”

In an attempt to reboot the deadlocked discussions, the UK has now reportedly presented a “consolidated” text of the Free Trade Agreement which incorporates wording the two sides agree on, as well as highlighting the areas where differences remain. In what is said to be regarded by EU officials as a desperate move, the text is designed to force the hand of the EU, which has been reluctant to take such a step because of its demand for “parallelism.” Rather than agreeing on the least contentious topics first and moving on, the EU has so far insisted on discussing all subjects at once – something UK officials say has paralysed the process. As noted by both sides, discussions have yet to begin on the legal text with little time remain before the October deadline.

According to Politico, the EU is, however, is in no rush to compromise on a post-Brexit deal with UK negotiators, because it reportedly believes the while the “UK might not always have behaved rationally in its negotiations with Brussels, the pandemic and the lack of trade alternatives must lead to some reason in London.”

The 8th round of negotiations will take place in the week commencing on 7th September.

In other news –

– In a letter, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice has confirmed that the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will act as the “new UK REACH regulatory body” at the end of the Brexit transition period.

– Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis has warned the UK that it might have to wait until after the end of this year to know whether it would secure access rights to sell financial products and services across the European single market.

OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS

– In a new report, the US Chambers of Commerce (USCC) has called on the UK to strike a trade deal with the EU before the end of the year to avoid a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, adding that exporters and investors from the US “are keen to avoid” the trade relationship between the two sides reverting to WTO terms.

– Trade bodies have threatened legal action against the Government’s new Brexit customs system, claiming it will unfairly distort competition. In a meeting of HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) expert panel, industry groups said the new Trader Support Service (TSS), which will enable the Government effectively to act as a customs agent on behalf of traders, would destroy businesses that provided customs brokerage services themselves.

Many thanks for last weeks Brexit transition round-up compiled by public affairs and communications consultant Nicky Donnelly.