Third round of UK-EU trade negotiations underway
Talks over a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU have restarted this week, with a decision set to be made on the future of negotiations at a key summit in June.
A decision must be made next month as to whether the existing negotiating deadline of December 31, 2020, should be extended.
The UK government has insisted that it will not agree to any extension despite the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, even if the EU favours it.
The government has thus far refused to change its stance that a prolongation of talks would only cause more uncertainty for businesses.
During the transition period, the UK must continue to abide by EU rules. Should it be extended, the country would be expected to make a lump sum contribution to the EU budget.
The Liberal Democrats and the SNP have been persistent in calling for an extension to the transition period, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that an extension should be triggered “if necessary”, after expressing concerns that the December deadline was “very, very tight”.
Talks have been continuing throughout the coronavirus outbreak via video link after physical meetings were suspended. A legal text outlining the basis for a future trade deal was exchanged between both negotiating teams in March.
The latest round of talks will run over the course of this week and conclude on Friday, with the next round to begin on June 1.
The UK government announced that “limited progress” had been made after the previous round of negotiations in April, while chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said that progress in the talks had been disappointing.
There remain negotiating flashpoints on the issues of fisheries, competition law, police co-operation, and how the trade deal would effectively be policed.
The UK is thought to be keen to agree a core trade deal first, with separate deals encompassing energy and aerospace. Meanwhile, the EU favours an all-encompassing deal and prefers to tie-off agreements on fishing quotas and competition rules within that deal first.