Post-Brexit trade talks have begun in Brussels between the UK and the EU after both sides agreed to ‘intensify’ talks.
The meeting between David Frost and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will be the first face-to-face meeting between the pair since the start of the pandemic in March. Up until now, meetings have been held virtually via the internet.
The meetings which are expected to last a month will determine future trade terms between the EU and the UK from January 2021.
PM Boris Johnson met with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier in the month and after the meeting claimed that with “new momentum” there was a very good chance that a trade deal between the UK and the EU could be found by December.
However, the Prime Minister has refused to extend the current transition period which is due to end in December and means that until that time, the UK will continue to follow some of the EU’s rules.
The UK signalled their intention of not letting the negotiations continue beyond the Autumn and to walk away without a deal after it was announced that lead negotiator David Frost had been appointed to a new role as National Security Adviser
A government spokesperson said, “David will start around the end of August. As we have made clear, we do not wish these talks to run into the Autumn.”
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove confirmed the UK government's stance in a recent tweet, stating, "On 1 January 2021, we will take back control and regain our political and economic independence."
Both sides have acknowledged that if a trade deal is to be found, it will need to be agreed by October so that it can be ratified by the end of the year.
If the two sides are unable to agree to a trade deal, it would mean the UK leaving the bloc on WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules, with many critics believing this could cause further damage to an already fragile UK economy.
Michel Barnier said that there had been “no significant areas of progress” in the last round of negotiations back in June.
A number of major sticking points still exist between the two sides including the so-called ‘level-playing field’ which would ensure that neither side would have an unfair advantage over the other. Then there is the issue of fishing rights and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Mr Frost has claimed that the EU is making “unrealistic positions” and that they would need to change these if an agreement is to be found.
Tory MP and ERG Chairman, Mark Francois also threw the cat among the pigeons after writing to Michel Barnier, demanding that he listened to the UK negotiators in order to find a compromise on the contentious trading points.
The letter was titled, 'A Missive From A Free Country' and said:
“We have noticed in recent months that you have been writing to a number of our colleagues in the House of Commons and so we thought it was time that we returned the compliment.”
“If you are willing to accept that the United Kingdom will be a fully independent country at the end of the year, responsible for its own destiny but willing to trade equitably with its neighbours, I can see no reason why we won’t be able to ratify a free trade deal with time to spare.”
January 14, 2021