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In a familiar round of remarks, the UK and EU reported continued deadlock on core issues following the fifth round of talks on the future UK-EU relationship. Once again, both sides reported constructive discussions and positive progress in some areas, but they also highlighted considerable differences on their respective red-lines. Despite this, the talks continue into August 2020, with negotiators on both sides still aiming to reach an agreement. With the Prime Minister's hopes of a deal in July ruled out, UK chief negotiator David Frost believes 'agreement can still be reached in September'. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reaffirmed the EU's 'willingness' to reach a deal, but warned that it was 'unlikely' at present, due to the UK's position on competition and fisheries. In light of the continued difficulties and lack of time remaining, both sides acknowledged the possibility of a no-deal outcome, urging preparation for 'all possible scenarios' at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
The EU has stressed that an agreement must be reached by October 2020 at the latest in order to ratify and implement the new treaty entering into force on 1 January 2021. Mr Frost gave his own assessment of the situation, suggesting that an 'agreement can still be reached in September, and that we should continue to negotiate with this aim in mind'. Further 'informal discussions' are due to take place next week, ahead of a sixth round of negotiations beginning on 17 August 2020. Additional talks may also be scheduled.
In the meantime, both sides have launched fresh campaigns aiming to prepare the public and businesses for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020—with or without a deal.
The government launched a fresh public information campaign promising guidance to ensure individuals and businesses are prepared when the transitional arrangements under the Withdrawal Agreement come to an end and new arrangements come into effect on 1 January 2021. The campaign directs businesses, organisations and individuals to the government's new 'Check, Change, Go' strapline, which includes a checker tool highlighting necessary next steps. See: Brexit Bulletin—UK launches information campaign to prepare for end of transition period, LNB News 13/07/2020 59.
The launch of the UK information campaign followed the European Commission's earlier communication on preparations for the end of the transition period. The EU has published over 70 sector specific notices on preparation for the end of transition and promised that preparatory work for the changes to cross-border exchanges between the UK and EU as of 1 January 2021 will be afforded the highest priority. See: Brexit Bulletin—Commission adopts communication on 'readiness' for the end of the transition period, LNB News 10/07/2020 7.
For further detail, see: LNB News 23/07/2020 118.
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