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The UK and EU issued a brief joint statement following the High Level Conference on 15 June 2020. The meeting between Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President, Charles Michel, and European Parliament President, David Sassoli, took place by video conference. At one time, this was a key milestone in the original transition schedule, giving the parties an opportunity to take stock of progress in the negotiations. By this point, the UK was hoping to have made significant progress on the key elements of the future relationship and the EU was hoping to be near to a deal on fisheries. However, due to the lack of progress so far, this meeting was not a watershed moment. The statement that followed simply confirmed matters already highlighted prior to the conference, welcoming ‘constructive discussions’ to date in spite of the challenges presented by coronavirus (COVID-19), but agreeing that ‘new momentum’ is required, particularly in light of the UK’s decision not to request an extension to the transition period, which was ‘noted’. Richard Eccles, partner at Bird & Bird and Adam Cygan, Professor at the University of Leicester, comment on the developments.
Intensifying talks on the future relationship and accelerating work towards implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement are technically separate but politically interrelated workstreams that are essential to the UK and EU’s preparations for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. While trade negotiations will continue through July 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee is not due to convene again until September 2020 (though a meeting could be called sooner). The Specialised Committees are expected to meet before then.
Anyone hoping for substantive progress on deal and/or a clear pathway to an orderly exit from transition at this point will be disappointed, though perhaps not surprised by the outcome today. Practitioners will be looking for signals of progress in the intensified future relationship talks. As Richard Eccles warns, time is short to agree a deal that can be ratified and implemented in the time remaining: ‘Time is running out to agree a deal because the practical deadline is 31 October 2020 to allow time for ratification processes’.
Practitioners preparing for the end of the transition period, the implementation of any deal, and final implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, will also expect to see the introduction of further domestic legislation and guidance, which has been fairly light touch since exit day. The government has not provided an estimate for the volume of secondary legislation to date, since this is likely to depend on the shape of the UK-EU relationship and specific implementing measures under the Withdrawal Agreement, which remain to be agreed.
Written by Holly Nankivell and Rosie Elizabeth Taylor
For further details, see: LNB News 15/06/2020 82.
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