EU and UK resume trade talks, but deal is still weeks away
Negotiators for both the European Union and United Kingdom began a seventh round of trade talks on 19 August in a bid to reach a post-Brexit deal before the January 2021 deadline.
Reuters reports that the proposed deal will cover all aspects of future relations, from trade to security. However, diplomats say that a deal is still weeks away from being finalised.
British chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, dined together on Tuesday 18 August ahead of the talks, which have snagged on the issues of fishing rights in British waters and ensuring state aid preserves fair competition. “The state aid part of the level playing field and fisheries remain the main hurdles. If this moves, everything else will fall into place,” said an EU diplomat.
“This round should not bring major breakthroughs: eyes are on the last one in September.”
Britons voted in a referendum four years ago to leave the EU and, after tortuous divorce talks, Britain formally left the 27-nation bloc on 31 January 2020.
The UK is now in a transition period to the end of this year, but a deal on its future relationship with the EU will need to be wrapped up by October to ensure it is ratified by that deadline.
If they fail to strike a deal, trade between the two will be on World Trade Organization terms, which would include tariffs and quotas and be more burdensome for businesses.
Barnier said last month the “level playing field” was the biggest remaining hurdle, but also listed energy and transport cooperation, as well as rules on marking the origin of products.
Eurasia Group analyst Mujtaba Rahman said an eventual trade-off on state aid and fishing rights was “possible and remains likely, but will take time”.
Rahman said a messy “no deal” with the prospect of delays at the border and food shortages would be a major risk for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s troubled government, and so pressure on him to agree a last-minute compromise would grow.