The deadline stated by Boris Johnson (16 October 202) for an outline Free Trade agreement with the EU, has come and gone.
Further “intensive” negotiations were put on hold following conclusions adopted by the EU Council at the meeting held on 15 and 16 October 2020 which included the statement:
Against this background, the European Council invites the Union’s chief negotiator to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible.
The UK response was to state:
…and given that they have refused to negotiate seriously for much of the last few months, and given that this summit appears explicitly to rule out a Canada-style deal, I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade…
Having paused the negotiations has anything changed since then? Recent statements by the UK Government, indicate that talks will resume from 22 October 2020
We have studied carefully the statement by Michel Barnier to the European Parliament this morning. As the EU’s Chief Negotiator his words are authoritative.
The Prime Minister and Michael Gove have both made clear in recent days that a fundamental change in approach was needed from the EU from that shown in recent weeks.
They made clear that the EU had to be serious about talking intensively, on all issues, and bringing the negotiation to a conclusion. They were also clear that the EU had to accept once again that it was dealing with an independent and sovereign country and that any agreement would need to be consistent with that status.
We welcome the fact that Mr Barnier acknowledged both points this morning, and additionally that movement would be needed from both sides in the talks if agreement was to be reached. As he made clear, “any future agreement will be made in respect of the decision-making autonomy of the European Union and with respect for British sovereignty”.
Lord Frost discussed the implications of this statement and the state of play with Mr Barnier earlier today. On the basis of that conversation we are ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations later this week. We have jointly agreed a set of principles for handling this intensified phase of talks.
As to the substance, we note that Mr Barnier set out the principles that the EU has brought to this negotiation, and that he also acknowledged the UK’s established red lines. It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, but we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks. For our part, we remain clear that the best and most established means of regulating the relationship between two sovereign and autonomous parties is one based on a free trade agreement.
As both sides have made clear, it takes two to reach an agreement. It is entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed. If so, the UK will end the transition period on Australia terms and will prosper in doing so.
It is essential now that UK businesses, hauliers, and travellers prepare actively for the end of the transition period, since change is coming, whether an agreement is reached or not.
The “principles” for negotiations to continue “intensified” talks state:
The following principles for further negotiations have been agreed by the Chief Negotiators of the United Kingdom and the European Commission.
1. The parties have agreed to intensify negotiations. Talks will take place across all negotiating tables concurrently. Negotiations will take place daily including weekends, unless both sides agree otherwise.
2. This next and final phase of the negotiations will in principle be on the basis of each side’s legal texts while a common approach is found, unless lead negotiators in an individual workstream agree that a different approach is more appropriate.
3. Lead negotiators in each of the workstreams should move as quickly as possible to a read through of both texts, with a view to identification of areas of convergence, which could be expressed either in a two/three-column table or consolidated texts depending on which tool lead negotiators deem most appropriate.
4. A small joint secretariat will be established to hold a master consolidated text. This will be staffed by officials and lawyers from both parties. The joint secretariat will establish a methodology for managing the legal texts, in consultation with the lead negotiators of each workstream.
5. This textual process should be accompanied by discussions in the workstreams on the outstanding more political issues, including the most difficult ones such as LPF, governance, fisheries, energy and goods/services provisions.
6. As has been the case in recent weeks, the Chief Negotiators and / or Deputy Chief Negotiators from both parties should meet in a restricted format, according to need. This group should have regard to the overall progress of the negotiations, consider issues escalated from the workstreams from the negotiation tables, give direction to workstream leads, and deal with the most sensitive political issues in the talks. This group should meet every day.
7. It is understood that, regardless of progress in individual workstreams, nothing is agreed in these negotiations until a final overall agreement is reached.
8. The initial phase of the negotiations will take place in London from 22 October until 25 October.
9. Thereafter the negotiations should take place in person in London and Brussels, or via teleconference, or a mix of the two, as agreed by both parties.
10. In managing the locations and logistics of this phase of the negotiation, both parties will give due regard to the evolving Covid-19 situation, the practicalities of travel, and, in particular, the different levels of risk in both London and Brussels. They will prioritise their duty of care to the individuals in negotiating teams on both sides and make appropriate decisions on the basis of evidence as the final stages of the negotiation move forwards.
It would be interesting to see copies of these documents – are they the same as previously issued ?
“…This next and final phase of the negotiations will in principle be on the basis of each side’s legal texts…”
A Draft Legal text from the European Union was issued on 18 March 2020:
( also here: 200318-draft-agreement-gen )
other EU documents at:
Draft Legal texts were first issued by the UK in June 2020:
How much of the original documents will end up in the final “agreed” document ? (I’m guessing the majority of the EU document!!)
Here is a reference to the speech made by Michel Barnier to the European Union Parliament:
and a “Google” Translation available at
(I’m unclear as to what exactly the European Union negotiators have conceded towards the UK in this speech in order for the UK to have agreed to proceed with further negotiations – Editor).