UK talks with EU on trade deal continue despite worries of Covid-19 impact on negotiators

Mon 2 Nov 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Trade talks between the UK and EU are continuing in Brussels this week despite fears that Covid-19 could scupper negotiations, reports the Daily Telegraph

Belgium currently has the highest rate of infection in the EU, going into national lockdown on Friday.

With the UK set to follow suit from Thursday this week, a source close to the negotiations was quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying: “Covid-19 is causing a lot of worry. If one person in a senior team catches it, you can see a situation where we cannot do it anymore.”

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Talks are at a delicate stage where face-to-face meetings are necessary as discussions are too complicated to be carried out by video conference. The talks are continuing in Brussels into the midweek, according to Reuters, with a possible update on Wednesday or Thursday.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that much “remains to be done”, particularly on the three sticking point of fishing, the so-called level playing field on state aid, and governance.

Fishing deal close

However, there appears to be some progress on fisheries, Bloomberg reports. In a sign that an agreement could be struck by the mid-November deadline set by both sides, a compromise is emerging on EU access to UK waters, according to two people with knowledge of the EU side of the discussions.

The potential solution would see quotas set to the principle of ‘zonal attachment’, the formula the UK is seeking. This means that quotas are based on where fish are found, rather than on fixed, historical fishing patterns.

Such an agreement would allow Britain to claim it has won back control of its waters and pave the way for UK fishermen to catch more than they do currently.

Decisions over EU boats’ allocations would be deferred until a later date, meaning they wouldn’t lose out immediately, and any disagreements over how the catch is divided up won’t necessarily ruin the wider deal.