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The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Joint-Chair of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, Michael Gove, has updated the House of Commons on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement. The statement followed the joint announcement of an agreement in principle between the UK and EU on the implementation and operation of the Protocol (see: LNB News 08/12/2020 117). The government says that the agreement reached delivers on its core commitments and priorities, allowing it to withdraw controversial provisions of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill introduced as a ‘safety net’ to protect UK interests. Meanwhile, negotiations continued on the future UK-EU relationship with EU leaders calling for a firm decision on the future of the talks by 13 December 2020.
The agreement in principle on all outstanding issues relating to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement ‘in particular with regard to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland’ will be approved officially at the next EU-UK Joint Committee meeting. Clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill will be withdrawn accordingly.
Acknowledging the urgent need for further clarity and specific guidance on the outstanding issues in advance of the end of the transition period, Gove said: ‘We know that we now need to get on and give further clarity to business as to the specifics of what this deal means for them, and how it will all work in detail in practice. And we will do this through the publication of further guidance. And that will sit along the ongoing, intensive work we will take forward to implement the Protocol.’
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister travelled to Brussels for talks with Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, in a last effort to reach an agreement on the future UK-EU relationship. Speaking in Parliament, the Prime Minister insisted that ‘a good deal is still there to be done’, but the UK’s demands in respect of regulatory alignment and access to UK fishing waters were not acceptable. With 'major differences' on the core outstanding issues, negotiators now have until 13 December 2020 to reach a firm decision on the future of the talks.
Ahead of those talks, EU businesses wrote to President von der Leyen and other EU leaders, welcoming the agreement in principle in the Joint Committee, reiterating the importance of a deal on the future UK-EU relationship for the business community, and urging the EU to ‘put in place the necessary measures that would mitigate the impact of a potential no-deal scenario’ in key areas such as data protection, customs rules, transport, financial services, posted workers and social security co-ordination.
• Oral statement to Parliament: Withdrawal Agreement Update
• EU-UK relationship—Contingency—Letters from BusinessEurope
• Press release: Statement on UK-EU negotiations: 9 December 2020
• Statement: Statement by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen following her meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
For further detail, see: LNB News 09/12/2020 120.
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