Brexit talks to resume with focus on trade level playing field, fisheries and governance

Ahead of the resumption of negotiations on Tuesday, Michel Barnier and David Frost, the chief negotiators for the two sides, will have a dinner in London, where this week’s talks will take place.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 Jul 2020

The fifth round of EU-UK future relationship negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday and conclude on Thursday.

Both the UK and the EU have agreed to speed up the protracted talks, as the end of the transition period is nearing, and to continue the discussions over the summer holidays. Their positions are still reportedly far apart, though.

On Monday, a UK Government spokesperson told this website, “We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified process, and we look forward to upcoming talks.”

Meanwhile, the UK has launched a communications drive to raise awareness among the estimated 1.5m Britons who live and work in Europe about their post-Brexit rights.

The move comes amid growing concern at the perceived failure of many Member States, such as Belgium, to inform Britons who live in their countries about their legal rights from 31 December.

The UK has introduced a settled status scheme for the 3.5m Europeans who live in Britain but there are concerns that many Member States have done little or nothing to help protect Britons who reside in their countries.

A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said, “UK nationals living in the EU must be able to rely on the rights the Withdrawal Agreement gives them, just as EU nationals living in the UK can.”

“We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified process, and we look forward to upcoming talks” UK Government spokesperson

“We continue to call on the EU and Member States to protect the rights of UK nationals with faster implementation, longer application windows and clear communications, as the UK has done for EU citizens in the UK.”

The UK left the EU on 31 January but remains a member of the customs union and the internal market until the end of a transition period on 31 December. During this period, both sides have been negotiating new trade relations.

If no agreement is reached by the end of the year, the EU-UK trade relationship will be governed by the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), meaning the return of tariffs and customs barriers.

European Council President Charles Michel says that a €5bn “Brexit reserve” should be reserved in the EU’s draft multi-annual budget for the countries and sectors that would be most affected by Brexit.

Meanwhile, former UK Labour MP Roger Casale says that when the UK leaves the EU, its borders will effectively be closed to low-paid workers and those who do not speak English.

He told this website, “The impact on the social care sector and other areas of the economy where overseas workers are in high demand is likely to be devastating.”

“Nowhere can the catastrophic impact of an unregulated Brexit in a time of a global pandemic be seen more clearly than in the crisis in Britain’s social care sector.”

Over 20,000 people have died in the UK’s care homes during the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, staff vacancies across the UK have soared to over 120,000 - more than 10 percent of the total workforce in the sector, according to the National Care Forum.

Casale says, “The numbers are quite staggering but the UK Government refuses to move.”

In a written statement last week, Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary, confirmed that care workers would be excluded from the government’s new fast track visa arrangements.

Care workers will not be entitled to reduced application fees and the additional support available to health workers. Minimum income thresholds present an additional barrier.

Casale adds, “Having abandoned its failed net migration targets, the Government’s immigration policy is still driven by an obsession with numbers. Its narrative is shot through with Orwellian ‘double-speak.’ What better term could there be for a new ‘health and care visa’ from which ‘care workers’ are excluded?”

Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum, described the likely impact of the government policy in London as an “unmitigated disaster.” Over 38 percent of care workers in London are from abroad.

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