Brexit Negotiations + Covid19: An Update
This Sunday the deadline set by the European Parliament for a Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union has passed. Unfortunately, the negotiators have not yet been able to come to an agreement.
So many deadlines that were set for these negotiations have passed, that we’ve lost count. The one deadline that parties will not be able to pass is the January 1st 2021 deadline because on that date the transition period ends and the United Kingdom is officially no longer part of the European Union.
Negotiations Still Ongoing
The positive thing is that the negotiations are still ongoing, so a deal is still in sight. The problem with this deal is that if it is reached it will not be ratified by all 27 EU countries before it would enter into force on January 1st 2021. The Guardian reports on the options if a deal is reached before the end of the year:
There is no legal requirement in the treaties for the European parliament to hold a consent vote. The necessary steps in Brussels are for the commission to propose “provisional application” of a deal; the proposal and the draft treaty to be translated into the EU languages, although maybe not all 24; the commission proposal to be adopted by the 27 European commissioners in Ursula von der Leyen’s team; and the Council of the European Union, which represents the member states, to sign the deal. In the meantime, the EU capitals will want to take a hard look at the legal text. The process could take up to a week. The deal would then be provisionally applied on 1 January. The European Parliament could give its consent in a vote later in January.
Read the full article here.
The stumbling blocks have not changed, with fishing rights being at the top of the list.
The BBC writes about sources at Whitehall that aren’t positive about reaching a deal:
Whitehall sources have said that it is increasingly likely that the UK will emerge from the transition period without a free trade agreement with the EU.
This will mean that, from 1 January, both sides will rely on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules to govern exports and imports. Tariffs could be introduced on goods being sold and bought, potentially affecting product prices.
A government source told the BBC the EU was "still struggling to get the flexibility needed from member states" to make a deal possible".
The United Kingdom Isolated Due to COVID
It was already difficult to move goods into and out of the United Kingdom. There have been long lines of waiting trucks in ports like Dover and Calais. Many companies have been trying to get enough supplies to the right side of the Channel to cover the first weeks of the year, just to be sure. A mutation of the COVID virus has made the situation at the borders of the United Kingdom even tougher. The new strain is more infectious. Many countries have stopped accepting people coming in from the United Kingdom. France even closed its borders to both goods and people coming from the United kingdom for two days. While moving goods is still allowed, and the ban is not applicable to truck drivers there are significantly more trailers being loaded, whereas usually trucks also make the crossing. Many truck drivers don’t want to end up on the wrong side of a closed border this close to Christmas. While goods will keep flowing this is a further complication of an already delicate situation.
Preparations for Brexit Still Going at Full Speed
The Port of Rotterdam is not waiting for the outcome of any negotiations and is moving full speed ahead with its Brexit preparations. The Ports writes:
The Port of Rotterdam Authority, customs, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, and ferry terminals have been preparing for Brexit in close collaboration for more than two years. Nevertheless, there may also be disruptions at the ferry terminals if a trade agreement is reached per 1 January. The aim of the coordinated effort is to minimise any delays resulting from additional customs formalities at Dutch ferry terminals with a connection to the UK. To this end, extensive traffic circulation plans have been prepared for the ferry ports where these problems may occur: the Hook of Holland, Europoort (2x), Rozenburg and Vlaardingen.
All cargo has to be digitally reported in advance via the Portbase system and buffer parking locations in case waiting times go up. These are just some of the measures the Port is taking. Read the full statement here.
Get Ready for Brexit
Customs Support is ready for Brexit. Please make sure you are too! For more information and a checklist on what you can do to prepare visit our Brexit Analysis page.