EU and UK trade agreement negotiations STILL on – despite the mixed signals

Tue 20 Oct 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News


The EU yesterday (Monday 19 October) offered the UK a continuation of negotiations on the UK’s trade deal terms, including moving on to the legal texts of an agreement in intensified talks.

The move was confirmed by Michel Barnier on Twitter at the precise moment when Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was standing at the House of Commons dispatch box declaring that the talks had finished.

Today (Tuesday 20 October) Barnier said he hoped to be in London later this week for talks on a trade deal.

About turn

The Guardian reports that Gove, the minister leading the UK’s no-deal preparations, registered the tweet and went from saying the talks had “effectively ended” to praising the “constructive move” from the EU.

Politico reported that a No 10 spokesman said that although the Prime Minister had noted the EU’s offer to “intensify” the talks during a call between Barnier and his UK counterpart Lord Frost, this was not the basis to resume the negotiations.

The UK wants the EU to make concessions on its stance on fishing rights and state aid.

Staying in touch

EU sources suggested to the Guardian that Downing Street will not want to reverse Boris Johnson’s suspension (on Friday 16 October) of the talks so quickly, though the two parties remain in touch.

The PM announced on Friday that the UK should prepare for a no-deal situation after becoming frustrated at the lack of progress in talks.

However, he did not say that talks were over and hopes have remained that common ground can be found, with Gove saying at the weekend that the door remained ajar.

'Constructive meeting'

Gove held what he described as a “constructive” meeting yesterday with the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, at the joint committee charged with implementing January’s withdrawal agreement.

Šefčovič welcomed the clear political steer and commitment given by Gove outlining progress on key areas.

The Guardian reported an EU insider describing the progress at the meeting as “a turning point”, coming just weeks after the UK threatened the process with its internal market bill’s powers to “disapply” the Withdrawal Agreement.

Despite the mixed messages, talks still appear to be on with negotiator Lord Frost tweeting yesterday that he would “stay in close touch” with Michel Barnier.