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In remarks following the final scheduled round of talks on the future UK-EU relationship, the UK and EU have reported continued deadlock on core issues. Once again, both sides reported constructive discussions and positive progress in some technical areas, but they also highlighted considerable differences on their respective red lines. EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there remain ‘persistent serious divergences’ in level playing field, governance and fisheries. UK chief negotiator, Lord Frost, while admitting ‘differences remain’, considered ‘the outlines of an agreement are visible’. Talks are expected to continue, with a video conference call between European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, scheduled for 3 September 2020 to take stock and agree next steps.
The EU has stressed that an agreement must be reached in October 2020 in order to ratify and implement the new agreements entering into force on 1 January 2021. Barnier reiterated that for the EU, an agreement is contingent on resolving key differences in level playing field, governance and fisheries ‘over the next weeks’. Barnier highlighted the importance of ‘robust enforcement and dispute settlement mechanisms, as well as effective remedies’—particularly in light of the dispute over the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill (which escalated with the EU sending a letter of formal notice to the UK for breach of the Withdrawal Agreement as talks were ongoing).
Focusing on the future relationship, Lord Frost gave his own assessment of the situation, expressing concern over the ‘very little time’ available to overcome key divergencies ahead of the European Council meeting on 15 October 2020, but echoed the EU’s commitment to continuing the talks: ‘For our part, we continue to be fully committed to working hard to find solutions, if they are there to be found.’
Despite tensions over the UK’s alleged Withdrawal Agreement breach, the negotiating teams ‘remain united and determined’. Talks are expected to continue, starting with a video conference call between European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, scheduled for 3 September 2020, to take stock of progress and discuss next steps. With little time remaining in the transition schedule, political engagement is likely to be key to resolving the deadlock.
For further details, see: LNB News 02/10/2020 92.
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