Saturday, 12 September 2020

Trade Talks

The week started off with a leader from the Financial Times that said "UK plan to undermine withdrawal treaty puts Brexit talks at risk". This report in the Financial Times said that ministers were plotting to in effect rewrite parts of the hard-won protocol provoked a quick and pretty outraged response from many quarters.

The talks this week have been between Lord Frost for the UK and Mr Barnier for the EU.

The trade talks have been rumbling on, not that successfully and a few hundred pages signed and sealed last year. If the EU is going to do a decent trade deal with the UK, they want to know their companies would not have a hard time competing with British businesses who were being propped up with huge chunks of public cash. So there are still tensions over the future trade deal which will in theory replace the UK's membership of the single market and the customs union, which have continued in practice during the 11-month transition period which runs out at the end of this year.

Then we had an explosive statement from Brandon Lewis that "Government legislation on customs rules for Northern Ireland do break international law in a very specific and limited way"! Immediately following this statement, the permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, has announced he is resigning from government in light of the bill, making him the sixth senior civil servant to leave Whitehall this year [2020].

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned the bill and accused No 10 of "reopening old arguments that had been settled", saying the "focus should be on getting a [trade] deal done" with the EU.

Then later on in the week, the EU threatned legal action.

The EU gave Boris Johnson a 20-day deadline to ditch plans to tear up elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement or face the collapse of trade talks and possible legal action. The European Commission said Brussels will “not be shy” in bringing court proceedings against the UK if the PM presses ahead with proposals which it believes violate the Brexit withdrawal deal and endanger the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, and it warned that persisting with the measures would put at risk a UK/EU free trade agreement, just as discussions reach a crunch point with negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier meeting in London.

The Internal Market Bill, which will be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time next Monday [14-September-2020], addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.

We end the week with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson accusing the EU of threatening to blockade Northern Island from food deliveries. It would appear that we need more than trade talks to settle this issue.

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