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Catching up on Brexit

Written by Sophie Aristotelous

Although the Coronavirus pandemic seems to have taken over the recent conversation, the news on Brexit is not quite over. The UK officially left the European Union (EU) on January 31 2020, otherwise known as Brexit day. Yet, with the UK being the first country to voluntarily leave the EU, the process is unprecedented, and the British government are still working with Europe to come to an agreement on their future relationship.

Brexit day marked the beginning of an 11-month transition period for the UK. This means the Britain still follow EU rules until the end of this year, but on December 31 they will automatically drop out of the EU’s main trading arrangements. These are the single market, which means that countries all have the same rules regarding product standards and access to services, and the customs union, an agreement between EU countries not to charge taxes on each other’s goods.

The UK government, led by the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser and Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe, Lord David Frost, is in talks with the EU to negotiate a new deal which will govern their trading relationship post-Brexit. If a agreement is not reached by the deadline, the future trade between the UK and EU will follow the default the rules set by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). There are a couple of sticking points in the ongoing negotiations. One is fishing rights, specifically how much European fishing boats should be able to catch in British waters. Another is the issue of “state aid” rules, which limit how much the government can help industry so that there can be fair economic competition. The UK have also requested annual talks to discuss stock limits, which the EU has so far resisted.

Boris Johnson set the deadline of October 15 to agree a deal, yet the two sides are still disagreeing on key issues. At a summit in Brussels on October 19, EU leaders called on the UK to make the necessary moves towards a deal. However, this stalled negotiations and Cabinet office minister Michael Gove MP consequently said in a speech that a free trade agreement would not be completed before the end of the transition period and that, without a fundamental change in approach from the EU, the process would not get back on track.

Although it looked like a deal would not be made, days later EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said in a speech that a Brexit deal is within reach, implying that compromises on both sides were needed. Barnier then travelled to London to restart trade talks with the British government. Progress appears to have made and the hopes of a deal still linger.

However, leaving Europe seems to have presented the opportunity for new trade relationships for Britain, as the UK formally signed a trade agreement with Japan this month. The UK’s future relationship with America has also been speculated, with the uncertainty of the trade agreement with Europe and the upcoming US presidential elections being key determining factors of how it might be moving forward.

Britain’s faith in the government appears weak and a recent YouGov poll indicated that 65 per cent of the UK believe the government has “generally failed” in its negotiating objectives. As the UK has ruled out seeking an extension, concern exists in Britain that Johnson and his government will not be able to secure a good deal in time. However, as the clock is still ticking, nothing can be known for certain.

What we do know could change for UK citizens now the country is leaving the EU?

Living in the UK if you’re an EU, Swiss or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen People from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland need to apply to carry on living in Britain after 31 December.

Going on holiday The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which could be used if any UK resident needed any healthcare when they were in Europe will no longer be valid. There could be other changes to travel, for example free dating roaming in Europe may end, but we do not know yet for sure.

Another thing causing contention is Johnson’s desire for EU nationals to continue using the automatic e-gates used by EU nationals at airports and Eurostar terminals, which the European commission argue would breach EU law. As a result, passport control queues could become longer.

Transferring goods between the UK and EU If the countries refer back to the WTO’s default rules, tariffs and border checks would be applied to UK goods travelling to the EU. This would make British goods more expensive and harder to sell in the Europe and could cause delays at ports. The lack of a deal would also mean the British service industry would lose its guaranteed access to the EU.

Even if a trade deal is reached, sending and receiving goods between Great Britain to the EU could look different. You can read about the process on the government’s website.

Image Credit: duncan c on flickr

#politics #CurrentAffairs #UK #brexit #policy

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