UK-EU trade deal in reach as both sides consider 'transitional arrangements'

Tue 24 Nov 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit talks

An outline of the deal for the future trading relationship between the UK and EU could be ready by the end of the week, European leaders have been told.

The Irish prime minister Micheal Martin said yesterday (23 November) that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had told EU leaders at a video conference summit that there was now agreed text in all areas of what will be a zero-tariff deal.

"I would be hopeful that by the end of this week we could see the outline of a deal,” he said to the Telegraph. “That remains to be seen. It's down to political will. One must remain hopeful.” 

Confidential notes from a meeting of EU diplomats on Friday – seen by Sky News – show that the EU’s negotiators think a deal is 95% done, but anxieties remain over the thorny issues of state-aid, governance and fisheries. 

UK still needs to make ‘significant moves’

With chief negotiator Michel Barnier self-isolating, his colleague, the European Commission’s secretary general Ilze Juhansone, briefed senior diplomats in Brussels on Friday.

According to Sky, Juhansone said that while the legal text of a trade deal was now “finalised” in almost all areas, “the UK has not made significant moves” on issues such as state-aid and fisheries.

There “will be no economic partnership” without an agreement in these areas, she said.

Review clauses

According to the FT, both sides are considering review clauses and transitional arrangements to facilitate the passing of an initial deal before the end of this year, providing more time for the remaining issues to be finalised.

Though there is not yet agreement on how these clauses would work, sources have told the FT that the UK believes the trade deal could be reviewed in its entirety in four years’ time.

This would give the UK the possibility of establishing tariffs on goods if it no longer wanted to abide by level playing field rules agreed to in a 2020 deal. 

Final push

Boris Johnson is expected to speak with European Commission President von der Leyen this week to instigate a “final push”, according to the Telegraph

A UK source said: “Both sides seem to think we will get there, but nothing is certain and Boris Johnson will not water down his demands in order to get a deal.” 

Sunak plays down no-deal risks

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show at the weekend, chancellor Rishi Sunak was keen to play down the risks of a no-deal Brexit, while maintaining that the UK would not agree to a bad deal.

The FT reports that government officials believe Sunak expects a deal to be agreed and that his comments were intended to remind EU negotiators that Britain was prepared to walk away from the talks.

The chancellor said the UK would “not accept a deal at any price”.