There has been much speculation that the UK’s deadline date for completion of an EU trade deal will be extended past December 31 because of the coronavirus crisis. However, Downing Street has repeatedly said there would be no change to the deadline as it is enshrined in law. The UK is currently in a transition period where it is operating under EU rules, despite having left the bloc on January 31.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost will speak with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier on Wednesday to outline a timetable for next round of trade negotiations.
While the logistical challenges of conducting sensitive discussions via video conference can easily be overcome, it has been widely reported there are still significant differences between the negotiating positions of two sides.
Brussels still insists on maintaining existing fishing rights in British waters and wants London to agree to a number of EU regulations, including environmental standards, workers’ rights and state aid rules.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is demanding the right to diverge from the bloc’s rules in order to strike trade agreements around the world.
According to Italian MEP Antonio Maria Rinaldi, though, because of the uncertainties brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the EU is actually more likely to make concessions to Britain.
He said: “I strongly believe that this tragedy could actually accelerate the Brexit trade talks.
“The longer the transition period is, the worse is for the EU.
“Let’s be clear.
“The UK did not leave Europe, it left the EU, which is just a series of agreements.
“And agreements have been signed and rejected since the days of the Babylonians.
“The UK, with its strength and ability and with its power, will certainly manage to find bilateral and plurilateral agreements.
“My advice is that Boris has to carry on saying and doing exactly what he has been saying and doing from the outset of these post-Brexit trade talks.
“That the British position is a respectable, sensible and a strong one and it must not change.
“Over the weeks ahead, if it becomes clear to the EU that our position is not going to change we will start to see movement.”
He added he felt the UK was still in a position to walk away from post-Brexit trade talks without an agreement and said: “I believe that ending up just leaving puts us in a perfectly good position.
“But of course, I would rather we had a free trade agreement as well.
“It is massively in the EU’s interest to get a good trade deal but we will only get it if the EU recognises that there is nothing better on offer from their point of view.
“They would clearly rather have a free trade agreement modified by controls and laws and taxes imposed on us.”
Published at Sun, 12 Apr 2020 13:29:00 +0000