STATE OF PLAY

Negotiations continued this week with the two sides reporting some progress, chiefly on governance issues.

Confirming this, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, said that the negotiators would work on the issue of how to construct a dispute mechanism that would allow either side to suspend parts of the deal in the event of a clear breach of obligations.

However, she also noted there are still significant differences on the issue of non-regression clauses, with the EU wanting clear commitments from the UK that it will not try to break away from the EU’s level playing field. 

Furthermore, Von der Leyen further said;

“There are two critical issues: level playing field and the fisheries, where we would like to see more progress. We are in very close contact on an hourly basis because the negotiations have now been intensified … There are 11 other fields of files that have to be negotiated.” 

Discussion are continuing in Brussels where the two negotiating teams were expected to stay until November 4th, although this might change if Belgium announces a new lockdown today (30 October).

Future negotiations could then be held exclusively in London – although this is understood to be unlikely – or shifted to online video conferences, depending on how strict the Belgian lockdown is.

Frost and Barnier, the two chief negotiators, will discuss the impact of the new Belgian coronavirus restrictions, which are expected to last a month and so beyond the mid-November deadline, and make a joint decision on the next steps. 

OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS 
  • The Association of Freight Software Suppliers (AFSS) has written to HM Revenue & Customs warning that the industry does not have enough time to build and test the post-Brexit freight software, which would help transport companies submit their paperwork digitally, by 31st December. 
  • The Head of French Customs, Isabelle Braun-Lemaire, has warned that many European businesses have yet to factor in the additional red tape that will be compulsory to trade with the UK after 1 January. 
  • The Irish Government has been pressing the EU and UK to allow Northern Ireland exporters to benefit from existing and future free trade agreements (FTAs) between the EU and other countries at the end of the Brexit transition period. 
  • ADS President and Chief Executive of aerospace supplier Meggitt, Tony Wood, has warned that Ministers’ failure to prioritise an agreement on aircraft certification standards in Brexit is threatening the future of the industry. 
Polls
  • A new poll conducted by market research agency Opinium for the newspaper City A.M. has found that 40% of surveyed firms had their Brexit planning derailed by the coronavirus pandemic while 43% of firms said Brexit poses more of a long-term risk than Covid-19, and only 16% of firms trust the Government on Brexit.
  • A survey by YouGov has found that 65% of the British public now believe the Government has “generally failed” in its negotiating objectives, while 57% said that the UK side would be to blame for a ‘no-deal’. 
  • A survey by YouGov has found that in seven separate areas more than 60% of those polled said they were “not at all clear” on how policies would change from 1 January.