STATE OF PLAY

EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart, David Frost, met again this week for informal discussions. In an interview with the Guardian, European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, who oversees the EU’s negotiations, said that UK Brexit negotiators have only started to engage with the most contentious issues “in the last week or two” after pressure from business groups. Hogan said there had been “a change of attitude” by Downing Street in July as they realised time was running out, but added that the talks were “not as advanced as we would like”. The 6th round of formal negotiations will take place next week.

OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS

– The UK Government has announced a new £50m fund for customs intermediaries to support recruitment, training and new IT equipment to cope with an estimated 215m additional custom declarations annually after the end of the transition period. Representatives of the customs, logistics and haulage industry have, however, warned that the Government’s efforts to increase the training and recruitment of some 50,000 new customs officials for the new border with the EU are “flawed” and will be insufficient to meet demand.

– In a new survey, the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) has found that most companies now lack the time and resources to prepare for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, with one in five saying they are less prepared for it than in January 2020, before the UK signed its withdrawal agreement, due to coronavirus disruption. Three-quarters of companies said they were concerned about a further economic shock resulting from a failure to agree a trade deal with the EU, while more than half of companies reported no change in their level of preparedness for Brexit.

– Germany’s major business lobby BDI has warned that a failure of EU-UK negotiations is the most likely scenario, urging the EU to focus all attention on “necessary emergency measures.”

– A new report published by the London School of Economics’ (LSE) Centre for Economic Performance has found that Brexit will deliver a double shock to the economy regardless of a UK-EU deal, with business conditions worsening for sectors that have so far survived the impact of coronavirus and lockdown measures.

NEW TRADE DEALS

– The UK and Japan expect talks on a post-Brexit trade deal to continue past their 31 July deadline, as they are reportedly struggling to resolve outstanding points on market access, investment protection and rules of origin. However, both sides still believe they will reach an agreement within days, with Japan’s Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, expected to visit London in the first half of August to announce a deal.

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