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Bord Bia’s London Office Brexit Update: 27th November 2020

Cian Hassett, UK Market, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board

The EU and UK will resume face-to-face Brexit trade talks on Saturday with negotiations still deadlocked barely a month before Britain exits the single market. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, confirmed on Friday that he and his team were no longer in quarantine following a Covid-19-scare and that physical negotiations could resume. However, Mr Barnier tweeted that the “same significant divergences persist” between the two sides, adding that he and his team would travel to London this evening.

Briefing EU ambassadors on Friday, Mr Barnier said that virtual talks this week had been largely fruitless, with the two sides mired in disagreements over sticking points that have impacted the negotiations for months. On the UK side the mood has been slightly more upbeat, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisting this week that the “shape of a deal” was becoming clear. But progress made in recent weeks of intensive talks has ground to a halt, officials said, with much of the trade treaty drafted but the entire agreement contingent on resolving fault lines that have been present since the talks began in March.  The EU says there are no guarantees that a deal can be done as the clock ticks down to December 31. On Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that “genuine progress” had been made on a number of important questions but warned “frankly I cannot tell you today if in the end there will be a deal.”

 

UK Government Ministers’ pledges to preserve the UK’s food and farming standards after Brexit will not prevent the import of lower-standard products and could spell potential disaster for British farmers, a report has found. The Future British Standards Coalition (FBSC) found in a report on Friday that ministers would still have many powers to change the rules on food imports without parliamentary votes or robust scrutiny. Some standards on the use of antibiotics in farming, for instance, have already been scrapped, and rules governing the use of hormones on animals, and additives to food, will also be easier to alter.

The FBSC also found that the trade and agriculture commission (TAC), a statutory body with powers to give advice on bills for the next three years, under current plans would not include representatives with expertise on public health, environment, animal welfare and consumer protection. Kath Dalmeny of the FBSC said that they were positive about the TAC being set up, but that it would need more powers and expertise as lots of food products could be affected by a loosening of standards as part of future trade deals. She added that consumers have consistently rejected foods with lower quality standards that may hurt people, the planet or animals and that the government needs to show the public it is listening to the advice from a wide range of experts.

 

 

 

What’s next – Key Dates:

Nov-Dec: Potential period for ratification of a deal and preparations for implementation OR scaling up of UK readiness to trade on WTO terms.

31st December: Transition period ends and UK reverts to trading on WTO terms if no deal is secured.

1st Jan 2021:

-       NI Protocol comes into effect

-       Phased UK Border Operating Model comes into effect – detailed record keeping required and declarations/tariffs (can be deferred up to 6 months)

1st Apr 2021: Introduction of SPS controls

1st July 2021: Full customs and SPS border controls in place