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Bord Bia's London Office Brexit Update: 4th September 2020

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

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator claimed on Wednesday that Britain has ‘shunned’ offers to make progress in negotiations over the future trading relationship.
He accused London of wanting to turn Europe's fishermen into a “bargaining chip” in the talks.  The comments by Michel Barnier followed talks in London with UK chief negotiator David Frost on Tuesday — discussions that Mr Barnier said have failed to end the impasse that has dogged talks over the summer.  Speaking at an event organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs on Wednesday, Mr Barnier dialled up his criticisms of Britain's approach to the trade talks. He said the UK had “not engaged constructively” with EU red lines and accused London of a “lack of engagement” on core issues. Mr Barnier added that they had not seen “any change in position” from the UK.

The remarks were Mr Barnier’s riposte to repeated complaints from the UK government that the last round of negotiations in August were plagued by Brussels’ insistence on parallel progress in different aspects of the talks: the idea that progress could only be made on trade in goods and services if advances were also achieved on EU concerns such as fishing rights and rules on state aid. 

Next week's talks will mark the start of the final phase of negotiations that both sides accept need to be wrapped up by the end of October if a deal is to be in place for when the UK’s post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year. “I still have hope,” Mr Barnier said. “I continue to think that Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants an agreement with the EU.” The UK government is expected to produce a statement of intent on state aid either at the end of this month or in October that — in theory — could help to break the stalemate between the two sides. 

The UK’s leading customs and logistics associations have demanded an “urgent” meeting with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove after warning that Brexit border preparations are inadequate and risk causing “severe” disruption to supply chains next year.  The 11 signatories, including trade lobby groups the Road Haulage Association and Logistics UK, as well as several leading freight companies, said they requested the meeting because their concerns about the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 were now “so strong”.

The intervention comes as negotiations have stalled on a future EU-UK trade agreement, with both sides warning of the rising risk of a “no deal” exit. In a letter to Mr Gove, the minister responsible for Brexit delivery, the groups said the current state of preparedness had “significant gaps” that risked leaving the supply chain “severely disrupted” if not addressed. 

The letter was written after increasingly heated meetings with the government’s Border Delivery Group, which was shifted to the Cabinet Office under Mr Gove last June in order to help expedite preparations. Individuals briefed on the discussions told the Financial Times that senior officials had revealed a basic lack of knowledge about the complex and time-consuming processes required for customs brokerages to take on new clients.

The Cabinet Office confirmed receipt of the letter, noting that the government was spending more than £750m on infrastructure, technology and the customs intermediary sector ahead of the January 1st deadline.

What’s next – Key dates:

7th September: Round 8 of UK-EU negotiations in London (informal talks w/c 14th & 21st September)

28th September: Round 9 of UK-EU negotiations in Brussels

15th – 16th October: Meeting of the European Council

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