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Brexit round-up – 22/05/20

Welcome to this, our latest Brexit round-up. Each week we provide a succinct round-up of the latest news surrounding the Brexit process, so you can keep abreast of the issues which are likely to affect your organisation.

Government statement following third negotiating round

The Government has issued a statement following third round of negotiations with the EU which expresses regret that very little progress was made towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues. In the Government’s view a standard comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA), alongside other agreements on issues such as law enforcement, civil nuclear and aviation, could be agreed without major difficulties in the time available. The statement says that the major obstacle is the EU’s insistence on including level playing field proposals in a way that is unprecedented in FTAs and not envisaged in the political declaration. The Government also disagrees with the EU’s position on fisheries. The Government says that a change in EU approach is required for the fourth round of negotiations, which is scheduled to start on 1 June 2020.

For more information please click here.

EU issues statement following third negotiating round

The European Commission has also issued a statement following the third round of negotiations which notes that the third round was underpinned by new text proposals sent by the UK, which now cover nearly all of the topics included in the European Commission’s draft text. The EU’s statement says that the discussions provided useful clarifications on matters such as trade in goods, transport, and UK participation in EU programmes, however no progress was made on the other more difficult subjects, apart from some modest overtures. The EU states that the UK did not engage in a real discussion on level playing field issues. No progress was made on the single governance framework, which would enable the UK and the EU to jointly implement the full range of their commitments. It says that the UK and the EU started to discuss fisheries, but the UK and EU positions remain far apart. It notes that there is general agreement on the objectives for police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, but obstacles include the Government’s approach to data protection. Following the third round the EU concludes that the UK government says it would be content with a Canada-style deal, but is asking a lot more than Canada, and is looking to maintain the benefits of being an EU member state without the obligations and therefore in order to make progress in the negotiations, the UK Government must be more realistic about the consequences of the decision to leave the single market and customs union.

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EU needs to show flexibility, says Gove

Following the third round of negotiations between the UK and the EU, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that talks were going “well” and that he was “confident a deal could be done” but he said that in order to progress the EU needed to show “a little bit of their fabled flexibility.” One of the main issues in negotiations is on fishing and access to waters and Mr Gove said “they [the EU] want to have the same access to our fish as they had when we were in the EU.”  The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that the EU would not accept a deal “at any price” and was stepping up preparations for a no-deal outcome, in which the two sides would trade with each other under World Trade Organization rules.

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Government publishes legal texts for negotiations

Following the end of the third round of negotiations, the Government has published 13 documents which sets out the UK’s approach to a future with the EU and which have formed the basis of discussions with the EU. The documents outline the UK’s position of securing a free trade agreement with the EU, drawing on previous EU agreements with the likes of Canada, Japan and South Korea. It has also proposed a separate agreement on fisheries, on law enforcement, and in technical areas covering aviation, energy and civil nuclear cooperation. It said its approach was based on “friendly cooperation between sovereign equals” and “represents our clear and unwavering view that the UK will always have control of its own laws, political life and rules.” The Government states that it believes the “approach and proposals are fair and reasonable. This Government is committed to establishing the future relationship in ways that benefit the whole of the UK and strengthen the Union.”

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Post-Brexit immigration bill approved by MPs

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill was given initial approval in the House of Commons on Monday by 351 votes to 252 in relation to its general principles. The bill sets out the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy which will repeal freedom of movement and introduces a new framework for who can come and live in the UK which will be based on a points system. Points will be awarded for certain things such as being able to speak English, having a job offer, meeting a salary threshold and for certain qualifications. Home Secretary Priti Patel said “It will end free movement and pave the way for a firmer, fairer and simpler system and will attract people we need to drive our country through the recovery stage of coronavirus, laying the foundation of a high wage, high skill productive economy.”

For more information please click here.

If you have any questions about any of the issues which are raised, or would like to discuss your own organisation’s options during the Brexit process, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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