MEPs unlikely to vote on UK-EU trade deal this year leaving talks in limbo

Mon 21 Dec 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit dispute

The UK remains in limbo after missing the latest deadline to secure a trade deal with the EU.

The European parliament had set midnight on Sunday as the time by which an agreement needed to be reached to allow time for ratification by MEPs before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. 

UK and EU negotiators continue to speak today but if a deal is reached the EU council may need to provisionally accept the deal before an MEP vote on ratification in 2021, according to the Guardian.

Mini deals

If a deal isn’t reached before the end of the year, the UK and EU could sign “mini deals” to ease any potential border chaos, according to cabinet minister Michael Gove.

Speaking to two committees in parliament late last week, Gove said it was unlikely a deal would be signed off until after Christmas, the Telegraph reports.

If there is no trade deal, the UK and EU could quickly agree “unilateral decisions that will make life easier for one or the other side”, he said. 

Clarification on fish

With the tussle over state-aid now resolvable, according to EU negotiators, the main obstacle to a deal is fishing rights, according to the FT

It reports that prime minister Boris Johnson is confused about what the latest EU offer would mean for the UK’s fishing communities and is seeking clarification.

An aide to Johnson said that the UK would not sign an “unbalanced deal” and warned “If this isn’t settled by January 1, that’s it, no negotiation next year.”

According to the Guardian, EU negotiator Michel Barnier is facing serious pressure from EU fishing communities over the EU’s current offer, which they say is selling them “down the river”. The EU has offered the UK a quarter of its catch by value, worth €162.5m.

The UK is insisting on 60%, but Gerard van Balsfoort, chairman of the European Fisheries Alliance representing the industry in coastal states such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, said the terms already offered would involve “unprecedented” and unacceptable cuts.

Shift required

Talks will continue today and the UK continues to press the EU to make a further “substantial shift” in its position. 

A government source told the BBC that the EU was “still struggling to get the flexibility needed from member states” to make a deal possible.

While the UK was “continuing to try every possible path to an agreement”, they said that “without a substantial shift from the [European] Commission we will be leaving on WTO terms on 31 December”.

To the skies 

With hold-ups already troubling ports and France banning freight vehicles entering the country for 48 hours due to the UK’s latest Covid status, some businesses are looking to make alternative arrangements.

Business are chartering cross-channel freight planes to avoid delays on the roads should a deal not be reached, the Telegraph reports

Dan Morgan-Evans, group cargo director at Surbiton-based Air Charter Service (ACS), said clients were looking to charters as an insurance policy.

“Currently, bookings in general are running at 300% of prior year due to the existing disruption. We have had around 100 clients request standby aircraft for January in case of a no-deal Brexit,” he said.

Capacity could become an issue. ACS predicts that the equivalent of more than 5000 747 freighters worth of cargo could be required to be flown into the UK in January alone.