Brexit negotiations, an update - Jochen Schaefer-Suren
Brexit Negotiations: an update
Jochen Schaefer-Suren Follow
Mar 17 · 5 min read
There remain “significant” differences between the UK and EU after the first round of
trade talks, the European bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said.
With a number of key UK points been considered ‘unacceptable’ by the EU negotiators, is
it likely that the UK will get any kind of deal at all, and if so, will it be a good deal?
CEO of Hotels and Leisure Industry for Principal Real Estate Europe, Jochen Schaefer-
Suren, says there’s reasons to be both concerned.
“It’s obviously a cause for concern that there’s been no agreement yet, but at the same
time I don’t think that anybody within the business world thought it would be easy or
that it would be quickly done considering that the EU Canada free trade deal took 7
years to negotiate. There was a lot of doubt that Boris Johnson’s optimism and
enthusiasm could be enough to get the job done, and there’s still obviously a long way to
go in these negotiations.”
However, recent events with the Coronavirus outbreak has caused even more concern
amid delays now to the next round of talks due to rescheduling the meetings because of
fears over the spread of the virus.
No talks doesn’t mean no action though, as the EU has drafted a its latest post-Brexit
trade deal proposal. This new document covers areas of importance beyond trade such
as security, foreign policy and fisheries.
The 441-page document was sent to the 27 EU states recently, and even though the
planned meeting to discuss it will not now go ahead in a face-to-face environment, it’s
widely expected that all member states will still discuss it separately and agree a way
However, much of the document is expected to be rejected by the UK Government
because of its reliance on and reference to EU law — which of course Britain wanted to
move away from being bound by under Brexit.
Both the UK and EU have confirmed that they will hold the planned negotiations but
over video conferencing, but will the talks really advance at all?
The UK left the EU at the end of January since then we have been in the transition phase,
where the country continues to abide by all of the EU’s rules while a trade deal is
negotiated: but the key question on everybody’s mind is this. How realistic is the
suggested end date of 31.12.20 for the transition and how long will the transition phase
actually last when we seem most likely to be locked into a never-ending deadline of trade
There has recently been an apparent answer to that question, when Prime Minister Boris
Johnson has said if an agreement is not made by the end of 2020, the UK will leave
without one and go on to World Trade Organisation rules instead. The negative
implications of this to businesses and the population in general have not yet, however,
been discussed nor realised and most senior business men expect this to be a pure
negotiation tactic from Boris to put pressure on the EU albeit few believe it will work.
In terms of uncertainty for British people and businesses, it could even be worse than
that, after current Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said that the government would walk
away from talks in June if a “broad outline” of a deal has not been agreed. Again this is
more likely theatrics than an actual position.
Especially since these comments were made before the mass hysteria about the corona
virus became apparent, clearly it is too early for signs of the UK backing down on their
position. It’s a position that is widely open to criticism, chiefly because such a move
would be the equivalent of a “no deal” Brexit, which in itself would be extremely
damaging to the UK economy.
‘Level playing field’
The draft legal text presented this week and yet to be discussed by both parties, was
called the “New Partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom”, was
drawn up in its entirety by the European Commission.
The document includes a lot of blank sections and placeholders as one might imagine,
when so much is uncertain and when the same question posed to different Government
ministers gets different answers. How can the EU be expected to draft a document when
it seems that the UK itself doesn’t really seem to know what it wants?
However, there are a number of new proposals for which there is already a lot of
information. These include:
A joint partnership council with 16 subcommittees, including a committee for the
“level playing field” so that neither the UK nor the EU has an unfair advantage in
‘Level playing field’ proposals are chiefly contained around areas such as fair/unfair
competition practices, taxation, labour and social protection, and the environment
The document is believed to contain new long-term agreements over access to
British waters for EU fishing, with annual negotiations proposed, but its unclear if
the UK will even consider this proposal as so far both parties have been at severe
odds over the point of fishing rights
An important section of the document is believed to contain new plans for Co-
operation on data exchange and extradition, if the UK continues to implement the
European Convention on Human Rights — which in itself is in doubt as several
sources lately have quoted the Prime Minister as saying that the UK would not, in
fact, continue to respect those convention rights
Previously, the EU had repeatedly warned that the UK cannot expect to enjoy continued
“high-quality” European market access if it insists on diverging from EU social and
environmental standards. It does appear that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are in
the process of ignoring this warning however, which doesn’t seem to bode well for a
positive conclusion to these talks.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the text “shows [an] ambitious and
comprehensive future relationship is possible”, adding: “We must give ourselves every
chance of success.”
At this stage, it has to be wondered if an agreement is ever going to be reached or if we
are, after all, headed for a no-deal Brexit.
Jochen Schaefer Suren UK Eu Brexit Coronavirus
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