Brexit negotiators expected to hold call in bid to salvage talks

Michel Barnier and David Frost are expected to make contact on Monday after last week’s EU summit failed to reach agreement on a deal between the two sides.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

19 Oct 2020

At the weekend, a UK Cabinet official said the talks were over “unless the EU changes its approach.”

But, speaking on TV on Sunday, Michael Gove, Minister to the Duchy of Lancaster with responsibilities including preparations for a no-deal Brexit, said the “door is still ajar” for a trade deal.

Commission officials said Barnier will call Frost today to sort out their next meetings.

Agriculture and fisheries ministers also meet today and tomorrow in Luxembourg and may discuss Brexit while, on Wednesday, European Council President Charles Michel will address MEPs to discuss the outcome of the 15-16 October EU summit.

Elsewhere, the leaders of the UK's Anglican Churches have warned the UK government that its new Internal Markets Bill could set a “disastrous precedent.”

The archbishops of Canterbury and York and the heads of the Church in Scotland, Wales and Ireland said the Bill could damage the relationship between the UK's four nations.

“Exceeding this [November] limit would make the implementation of any future agreement extremely difficult as Parliament needs sufficient time to scrutinise the deal before it can approve it. We will not just rubberstamp whatever comes out of the negotiations” Christophe Hansen, EPP

The warning comes as peers are due to have their first say on the legislation on Monday. The Bill would allow aspects of the EU Withdrawal Agreement to be superseded.

Gove will meet EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič on Monday to discuss how the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement, setting out the terms of the UK’s exit, is being implemented.

Meanwhile, the organisation representing businesses at the EU level said, “this is not the time to walk out and negotiations must continue.”

The European business community insists that a deal is still possible if both sides “remain at the table and committed to reach a compromise.”

BusinessEurope director general Markus J. Beyrer said, “This is the time to act responsibly and try to find an agreement. We expect both sides to stay committed to these negotiations and do everything to find a deal in the weeks ahead.”

“An agreement is still possible and it is the only way to avoid uncertainty and major disruption.”

“For months we have stressed to the UK government that the clock is ticking and time is now running out. We want to see negotiations continue to avoid a damaging no-deal scenario, but we are not about to fundamentally change our approach to negotiations” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

He said, “We hope that this week’s talks can resume with both sides strongly engaged to deliver an agreement that provides a sound competitive environment for our companies combining good market access with level playing field provisions.”

On Monday, Luxembourg MEP Christophe Hansen, a member of Parliament’s UK Coordination Group, said he hopes negotiations on the future EU-UK relations will continue, saying he believes that a deal can be reached “but not beyond the beginning of November.”

“Exceeding this limit would make the implementation of any future agreement extremely difficult as Parliament needs sufficient time to scrutinise the deal before it can approve it. We will not just rubberstamp whatever comes out of the negotiations.”

The S&D group said it also “fully supports” negotiations continuing in the coming weeks but “will not support any fundamental change in approach to the future partnership.”

S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez said, “For months we have stressed to the UK government that the clock is ticking and time is now running out. We want to see negotiations continue to avoid a damaging no-deal scenario, but we are not about to fundamentally change our approach to negotiations.”

She added, “We have been open and transparent from day one on our core principles in these negotiations and we have been consistently clear that they are not up for compromise. We are not about to fundamentally change that approach.”

“The door will always remain open for further negotiations, but we need to see some movement from the UK government on the key areas. This includes our call for the UK government to withdraw the offending parts of the UK Internal Market Bill that breach the Withdrawal Agreement.”

“The Withdrawal Agreement is not a simple bureaucratic matter; it is about upholding the Good Friday Agreement and is an essential tool to ensure peace and stability on the island of Ireland.”

She said, “The EU is preparing for any scenario and we support the efforts of the Commission to make sure we are ready to provide for every contingency.”

An ECR spokesman said, “Both the UK and the EU must work together to agree an ambitious trade agreement. By respecting the Withdrawal Agreement as the foundation of progress, it is possible to build a new political relationship and achieve prosperous trade.”

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