Brexit negotiations inch forward

 

David Davis, Brexit Secretary, and Michel Barnier the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator announced on Monday that the bones of a deal on the transitional arrangements have been reached. Michel Barnier called it a “decisive step” in the Brexit negotiations. The Times cartoonist had the UK government shouting, “We’ve got something!”

The proposed transitional period up to 31 December 2021 will be welcomed by UK businesses trading with Europe as providing a measure of comfort that current business arrangements can continue for a time at least. This will enable businesses to plan and modify their trading arrangements in a systematic fashion, rather than having to overturn longstanding processes “on the hoof”. The transition period is expected to be “waved through” by Member States representatives this week.

Nevertheless, the EU’s guiding principle, as Michel Barnier reiterated at the press conference, is that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, and there are many potential roadblocks to final agreement including, notably, Northern Ireland and how to avoid a hard border with the Republic, which no-one wants but appears inevitable in the long run unless either the EU moderates its insistence on cross-border controls or the UK stays within the EU Customs Union. So, nothing is set in stone yet.

The negotiating team will now “move on” to the substantive trade issues of Brexit.

In return for UK concessions on EU citizens’ rights of  UK residence and agreement on the wording of the transition deal Brussels conceded the UK will be able to sign and negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries during this transition period, to come into force once it is over with David Davis seeking “the biggest, most comprehensive, most effective trade deal ever”.

 

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