British and European negotiators begin their 9th round of Brexit negotiations on Tuesday, hoping to unblock some important aspects of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
The negotiating teams will meet in Brussels until Thursday, before a meeting of chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost on Friday morning.
The timetable is very tight, with October (mid-October according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, end of month according to Michel Barnier) seen as the last deadline for reaching an agreement that could then be ratified in time for entry into force on 1 January 2021.
That day corresponds to the end of the transition period, during which London was still following the Union’s rules. If no agreement is reached, the former partners will then fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for their trade, for example.
The cases that have been open for months are the same: fisheries, conditions for fair competition between companies on both sides of the Channel on state aid, environmental and social standards, judicial cooperation, among others.
While the discussions already seemed to be making little progress, a recent complicating factor is the bill that will be debated at the same time (Tuesday) in the British Parliament, which goes back on some of the commitments validated by London in the withdrawal agreement signed with Europe.
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, on Monday reiterated Brussels’ request to withdraw the controversial elements of the text, and reiterated that the EU “will not hesitate” to use the legal mechanisms provided for in the agreement if London validates this law in violation of its international commitments.
On the British side, Secretary of State Michael Gove maintained that the text is in the hands of parliamentarians and that the government sees it as a “safety net” for Northern Ireland, despite the fact that an Irish protocol has already been agreed between London and Brussels.
The ninth round of negotiations is currently the last on the agenda. But according to a government spokesman at the BBC, the talks should then continue until the European summit scheduled for 15 October.