Brexit update: Face-to-face talks resume for intense discussions

Brexit | | MIC Customs Solutions |

The key players in Brexit are ready to meet in person to kick-start negotiations.

With the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe apparently over - at least for now - talks are to begin in earnest once more in an attempt to turn Brexit into a done deal.

Britain's chief negotiator David Frost and the European Union's deputy chief negotiator Clara Martinez Alberola are to travel to Brussels today (June 29th 2020) to meet in person for the first time since continent-wide lockdowns were imposed in March.

This will mark the start of an intense eight-week period of negotiations, with the EU reportedly keen to sign off on an agreement by October and Boris Johnson's government more set on finishing things off by the end of the summer.

A video call on June 15th in which Mr Johnson insisted he is still looking for a deal seems to have brought about new momentum after months of stalling, as has a tweet by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove saying the transition period will not be put back past December 31st.

"The moment for extension has now passed," he wrote.

For July and beyond, negotiators will be focusing on key sticking points that have proved to be hurdles to Brexit so far, including fishing and competition regulations, the environment and state aid rules.

Fishing in particular has contributed to a number of disagreements, with the EU keen to retain the same rights to British waters after Brexit as it did before - and the UK not so pleased with this idea.

Mr Frost has already said Brussels will need to change some of its "unrealistic positions" if progress is to be made, and the EU has claimed it is willing to be flexible.

However, at the same time, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has criticized Mr Johnson for displaying "no willingness" to meet him halfway, adding: "We know the UK red lines and they have to respect our red lines."

German chancellor Angela Merkel also seemed to come down on the side of the EU, stating: "If Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labor market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close."

Meanwhile, Britain is reportedly ready to leave the transition period "on Australia terms" if no deal is reached, according to Reuters.

Australia currently has no comprehensive trade agreement with the EU, but does have a number of 'mini deals' in place for certain goods.

Time is ticking away if Mr Johnson wants to ensure a seamless transition, with analysts suggesting that drug exports from the UK to the EU could reduce by a fifth in a no-deal scenario and food supplies could be impacted more severely than during the height of the coronavirus crisis.

With all this still to address, is a deal by the autumn really feasible?

Michael Dougan, professor of European law at the University of Liverpool, told MarketWatch: "The chances of reaching a meaningful deal appear very slim given the fundamental differences between the EU and UK positions and bearing in mind the unprecedented nature of the task at hand, as well as the time scale available."

We will nevertheless be watching this space when it comes to the progress of the upcoming talks.