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On 15 May, following the delayed third round of talks on the future UK-EU relationship, UK Chief Negotiator David Frost issued a statement, reporting ‘very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues’. EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier made a similar assessment in his statement. In the remarks, both sides thanked negotiating teams for their continued work and determination to make the talks work remotely, however despite a ‘good understanding’ of each side’s negotiating positions and proposed legal texts, there remain strong disagreements. The UK insists that the EU must change its ‘ideological approach’ towards level playing field requirements and fisheries if a mutually beneficial agreement is to be reached. The EU calls on the UK to ‘change its strategy’ and ‘be more realistic’ if it wants to strike a deal. The UK plans to publish its draft legal texts next week. The next round of talks are scheduled for the week commencing 1 June 2020.
With the high level conference scheduled to take place next month to take stock of progress in the negotiations, continued reports of a lack of progress are concerning, though perhaps not surprising given the distance between the UK and EU’s approach and position on key issues. Meanwhile, parallel talks continue regarding implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, with the UK warning the EU that it is at ‘serious risk’ of failing to fulfil its obligations to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU in accordance with Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement. Michel Barnier acknowledged this warning in his remarks and confirmed the Commission’s focus on this issue. He also repeated his call for the UK to confirm its proposals for implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, in order to ensure this is fully operational by the end of transition. Recent analysis published by a pro-European think tank, the Centre for European Reform highlights some possible options for practical implementation of the protocol.
Both the UK and EU will be keen to report progress in these workstreams ahead of the high level conference. Not least the UK, which is insistent on ending the transition period on 31 December 2020 despite the option of extending.
For further details, see: LNB News 15/05/2020 62.
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