London, not Brussels: EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier remains in UK as trade talks continue

Mon 26 Oct 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

EU negotiator Michel Barnier has extended his stay in London for continued negotiations prompting hopes that a trade deal with the EU can be concluded swiftly, reports the Times

The talks had been expected to switch to Brussels next week but Barnier will now remain in the UK until Wednesday. Talks restarted last week after the EU and the UK agreed to intensify their efforts to get a deal.

Concessions sought

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Irish deputy PM Leo Varadkar both spoke with optimism about the chances of the deal yesterday, while Whitehall sources have told the Telegraph that concessions are now being made on both sides. 

Lewis said: “I think there is a good chance that we can get a deal but I think it is for the EU to understand that it is for them to move as well.”

Varadkar told Ireland’s RTE Radio 1: “It’s by no means guaranteed but I think on the balance of probabilities it will be possible to agree a free-trade agreement with the UK which means there will be no quotas and no tariffs.”

Japanese model

The Telegraph also reports that the level playing field rules offered to Japan by the UK have helped to provide a possible breakthrough for the EU talks, with state-aid remaining one of the sticking points in the negotiations. 

Level playing field guarantees on issues such as subsidy law offered in the UK-Japan deal were more robust than the bare minimum on the negotiating table in Brussels, EU sources said. 

Brussels is pushing for a deal on state subsidies that recognises what the UK has already offered to Japan. It wants stricter and enforceable commitments, citing the proximity of the UK market, its deeper connections to the EU economy and its offer of zero-tariff deal.

Sector warnings

As a possible deal emerges, sectors have issued warnings in the last few days about the impact of the UK leaving the EU, with some saying their needs have been overlooked in the talks to date. They include: 

  • Financial services: the City of London has complained that the UK is being offered less than Japan regarding regulatory alignment and mediation, reports the FT.

    Catherine McGuinness, head of the City of London Corporation’s policy and resources committee, said that the UK financial sector – the UK's single biggest services export – was being treated like a “neglected child” in the talks.

  • European TV makers: EU manufacturers of TVs are worried they may be locked out of the trade deal which could drive up the price of TVs for British consumers, according to the FT. Digital Europe, which represents European tech companies says that profit margins of TVs sold to the UK could be wiped out by the EU’s hard stance on rules of origin.

  • Aerospace: manufacturers have warned that the failure to reach an agreement on aircraft certification standards could cost the sector £34bn per year, according to the FT.

    Tony Wood, president of trade association ADS said the UK required a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement with Europe “if we are to preserve our position at the top table and number two position in the world”.

    If there is no deal, all UK-designed parts, components and systems for aircraft will become invalid in the EU from 1 January. Aerospace and defence underpin 375,000 jobs in the UK.

  • Electric cars: the SMMT has warned that a no-deal Brexit would add £2,800 per electric vehicle under WTO rules, reports the Shropshire Star. This would largely wipe out the government’s £3,000 grant on buying electric vehicles. 

Industry body Logistics UK warned government that a no-deal Brexit would lead to rising costs for some household items due to new tariffs and administrative costs, reports the BBC

The trade body's chief executive David Wells said the cost of some items could go up by 30%.