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UK will delay Brexit if MPs reject May’s deal – Finance Minister



London, March 7, 2019 Britain will probably have to delay its departure from the EU if MPs reject the government’s proposed
divorce deal in a vote next week, Finance Minister, Philip Hammond, said on Thursday.

Unless Prime Minister Theresa May can get her divorce treaty approved by the British parliament, then MPs will have to decide whether
to delay Brexit or thrust the world’s fifth largest economy into chaos by leaving without a deal.

“The government is very clear where the will of parliament is on this. Parliament will vote not to leave the EU without a deal. I have a
high degree of confidence about that,’’ Hammond said.

Britain is due to leave the EU in 22 days, but if MPs reject the deal this will put in doubt how, when or possibly even if Britain’s biggest
foreign and trade policy shift in almost half a century will take place.

Hammond warned eurosceptic colleagues if they fail to back the government’s deal they face the risk of a closer economic relationship
with the EU.

“We will then be in unknown territory where a consensus will have to be forged across the House of Commons and that will inevitably
mean compromises being made,” he said.

“The way for my colleagues to avoid that is to vote for the deal.’’

MPs on Jan. 15 voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst government defeat in modern British parliamentary history.

It was the worst defeat in parliamentary history, largely due to the Irish backstop, which is intended to avoid the return of hard border
between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Talks with Britain on amending its divorce deal with the EU have made no headway and no swift solution is in sight, EU officials said on

Britain wants legally binding changes to the backstop to ensure it will not be indefinite, to allay concerns among MPs that Britain
would be locked in a continued customs union with the EU.

When asked if Hammond would leave the government if May decided to leave without a deal, he said: “I have always said that I
believe it would be a very bad outcome for the UK to leave the EU without a deal.”


UK, EU need to conclude negotiation “in good time”: UK chief Brexit negotiator




Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said Friday that Britain remains “committed to a successful outcome” in talks with Brussels after little progress was made in the fourth round of crucial talks.

“Progress remains limited but our talks have been positive in tone. Negotiations will continue and we remain committed to a successful outcome,” said Frost in London after the talks.

“We are close to reaching the limits of what we can achieve through the format of remote formal Rounds. If we are to make progress, it is clear that we must intensify and accelerate our work,” he said.

“We need to conclude this negotiation in good time to enable people and businesses to have certainty about the trading terms that will follow the end of the transition period at the end of this year, and, if necessary, to allow ratification of any agreements reached,” he added.

“Any such deal must of course accommodate the reality of the UK’s well-established position on the so-called ‘level playing field’, on fisheries, and the other difficult issues,” he added.

The latest talks, like previous rounds of negotiations over the past few months, were conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The focus will now switch to a crucial meeting reportedly to take place later this month between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Johnson has continually insisted he will not extend the transition period beyond Dec. 31, with Britain and the European Union (EU) facing the prospect of trade being conducted under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules if there is no agreement.

For his part, Michel Barnier, EU’s head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, said Friday in Brussels that there had been no significant progress in the latest talks started Tuesday, noting that the EU has always been open to the possibility of an extension to the transition period.

“Our doors remain open,” he said.

Britain ended its membership of the bloc on Jan. 31 and has until the end of the year to agree a permanent trade deal with the EU.


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EU’s Barnier says no significant progress after 4th round of post-Brexit talks




Michel Barnier, the European Union’s (EU) chief negotiator with the United Kingdom on the UK‘s withdrawal from the EU, said on Friday that there have been no significant areas of progress after the end of the fourth round of talks with the UK on their post-Brexit relations.


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Britain, EU start fourth round of trade talks for post-Brexit era




Britain and the European Union are scheduled to start a fourth round of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal on Tuesday.

Negotiators from London and Brussels will engage in intensive talks over the coming week via video link.

Previous rounds of talks in April and May ended in a stalemate, with London and Brussels blaming each other for the lack of progress.

The future of fishing rights off the coast of the British Isles is expected to be one of the key agenda topics during the four days of talks, involving hundreds of negotiators from both sides.

Four separate sessions on fishing rights are scheduled, more than any other single topic.

A closing plenary session Friday will reveal the extent of any progress made during the week.

The Guardian in London Tuesday described fishing as a drop in the ocean of the UK economy, representing just 0.12 percent of economic output, adding the issue has become one of the most intractable in the Brexit talks.

Britain ended its EU membership on Jan. 31 but continues to follow Brussels’ rules under a transition period lasting until Dec. 31.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted Britain will not seek to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year.

The talks this week will be the last before Johnson attends a critical high-level meeting with EU leaders later in June to evaluate what progress has been made during the negotiations.


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London mayor urges Britain to extend Brexit transition



London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, on Monday urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to extend the transition period for Britain to negotiate post-Brexit arrangements with the European Union.

Khan asked Johnson’s cabinet chief and lead minister for Brexit, Michael Gove, to “put political ideology aside” and extend negotiations with Brussels, which are due to resume on Tuesday.

“The last thing our country needs as we try to find a way forward from this pandemic is more chaos and uncertainty.

“I’ve urged the government to put political ideology aside and pursue the pragmatic route of seeking an extension to Brexit negotiations,’’ opposition Labour politician Khan tweeted.

Britain formally left the bloc on January 31 after a slim majority voted for Brexit in a 2016 referendum.

Little has changed during a planned 11-month transition that Johnson has vowed not to extend, in spite of a lack of progress in talks that have been overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis.

EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told the Sunday Times that Britain had failed to meet its commitments to the negotiations on future trade and other arrangements.

“London had taken a step back, two steps back, three steps back, from the original commitments.

The UK negotiators need to be fully in line with what Johnson signed up to with us,’’ Barnier added, referring to a joint declaration on the principles of future relations.

Johnson and Gove have suggested they would accept a “no deal” Brexit if London and Brussels cannot agree on new trade rules by Dec. 31.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ejike Obeta (NAN)

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No Brexit breakthrough expected at next set of talks, EU adviser says



The European Union and Britain are likely to have to engage in accelerated Brexit talks over the summer because no one expects a breakthrough at the next round of talks.

An adviser to the EU’s chief trade negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Friday.

“I’m not so optimistic about Round 4, hopefully we make some progress, it won’t be a breakthrough,’’ Stefaan de Rynck told an online event organised by the Institute For Government.

“Let’s assume there is no extension or transition, which is what the UK government’s position is, and then we come to July 1.

“ We will have to negotiate over the summer. It will have to happen at an accelerated pace.’’

He added that both sides should work at all costs to prevent Britain leaving without a future trade deal.

Edited By: Halima Sheji (NAN)



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Post Brexit: Britain says EU is offering ‘relatively low quality’ trade agreement



The European Union is offering Britain a “relatively low quality” trade agreement, chief British negotiator David Frost said in a letter to his European Union counterpart Michel Barnier on Tuesday.

Britain left the EU at the end of January and is now seeking to negotiate a free trade deal with the bloc.

Talks have reached an impasse however, with both sides trading barbs before a crunch meeting next month.

The British government published its draft legal texts for an agreement on Tuesday.

While they had previously been shared with the EU team, Britain said it was making them public as a “constructive contribution to the negotiations”.

In a letter published alongside the texts, Frost said Britain had drawn on precedent in recent agreements between the EU and other countries.

Brussels has argued a wider deal is needed to take into account Britain’s proximity to the bloc.

“We find it perplexing that the EU, instead of seeking to settle rapidly a high-quality set of agreements with a close economic partner, is instead insisting on additional, unbalanced, and unprecedented provisions in a range of areas, as a precondition for agreement between us,” Frost wrote.

“What is on offer is not a fair free-trade relationship between close economic partners, but a relatively low-quality trade agreement coming with unprecedented EU oversight of our laws and institutions.”

Frost said he remained convinced it would be “very straightforward” to come to an agreement quickly.

The two sides have given themselves until the end of June to assess progress and decide whether to extend negotiations beyond the end of 2020, something Britain has so far refused to do.


Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)


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UK unveils new post-Brexit tariff regime




The British government announced on Tuesday a new tariff regime to replace European Union’s (EU) common external tariff after the Brexit transition period comes to an end this year.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2021, the UK Global Tariff ensures that 60 percent of trade will come into Britain tariff free on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms or through existing preferential access, and successful free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations will increase this, the Department for International Trade said in a statement.

The new tariff is tailored to the needs of the British economy. It will be in pounds not euros, the department said.

Under the new regime, the government will streamline or simplify tariffs on more than 6,000 products, including getting rid of all “nuisance tariffs” (those below 2 percent), to lower costs for businesses and increase choice for consumers, it said.

It said tariffs will be cut on over 100 products to promote a sustainable economy, with thermostats, LED lamps among others dropping to zero tariffs.

The government promises to extend the temporary zero tariff rate for personal protective equipment, medical devices and other key items from non-EU countries to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic beyond Jan. 1 should it be necessary, the department said.

The government will back agriculture, automotive and fishing in the country by maintaining tariffs on agricultural products such as lamb, beef and poultry, a 10 percent tariff on cars, as well as tariffs for the vast majority of ceramic products.

The British government counts on successful FTA negotiations to expand tariff free trade. It is currently in talks with the EU and the United States, and has announced negotiating objectives for talks with Japan.

However, hopes of Britain securing a permanent post-Brexit trade deal with the EU hit a major stumbling block on Friday when the latest round of bilateral talks ended. It leaves both sides with just six weeks to reach an agreement before a deadline for a decision to be made on extending the transition period beyond Dec. 31. If they fail to reach a deal by then, trade will be carried out on WTO terms.


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Hopes of post-Brexit trade deal dimming as fresh round of talks end




Hopes of Britain securing a permanent post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union (EU) hit a major stumbling block on Friday when the latest round of bilateral talks ended.

Angry words were traded by chief Brexit negotiators from London and Brussels at the end of a third round of high-level talks, conducted virtually through cross Channel video links.

It leaves both sides with just six weeks to reach an agreement before a deadline for a decision to be made on extending the transition period beyond Dec. 31.

With just one further round of talks remaining, scheduled to start June 1, political commentators were asking Friday night whether it was time for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to enter the fray in a bid to break the deadlock.

What is at stake is whether Britain will have a new trading agreement in place by January, or will trade by both sides be forced to follow WTO (World Trade Organization) export and import rules.

Johnson has continually insisted Britain will not seek an extension to the so-called implementation period under which the country is following EU rules while talks continue.

The first salvo in the latest trading of angry words came from Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost.

After this week’s round of intensive negotiations concluded Friday, he said: “I regret that we made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us.”

“The major obstacle is the EU’s insistence on including a set of novel and unbalanced proposals on the so-called ‘level playing field’ which would bind this country to EU law or standards, or determine our domestic legal regimes, in a way that is unprecedented in Free Trade Agreements and not envisaged in the Political Declaration,” Frost added.

Hurtling a gauntlet at Brussels, Frost said: “As soon as the EU recognises that Britain will not conclude an agreement on that basis, both sides will be able to make progress.”

Harsh words also emerged from Brussels, with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying: “There seems to be a real lack of understanding regarding the objective mechanical consequences of the British choice to leave.”

He bounced back an EU gauntlet, saying: “The UK will have to be more realistic. It will have to move beyond this lack of understanding.”

In Brussels, Barnier told reporters the latest round of talks had been very disappointing, saying he was not optimistic about the outcome.

Holding out hope of a breakthrough at some stage, Frost said “The UK will continue to work hard to find an agreement, for as long as there is a constructive process in being, and continues to believe that this is possible.”

The verbal clashes prompted the Daily Telegraph in London to describe the situation as a game of chicken.

The Telegraph said British and EU Brexit heavyweights traded blows in public for the first time today and revealed the parlous state of the deadlocked trade negotiations between London and Brussels.

The paper’s commentary said if Britain does not agree a free trade deal with the EU by October, which would allow ratification of the agreement before Dec. 31, it will be forced to trade on WTO terms only with its major trading partner.

The Guardian also suggested that Johnson may have to fight Britain’s corner.

“There is now a working assumption on the UK side that it will take a summit between Johnson and the commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in mid-June to break the impasse,” Guardian reported.

Meanwhile Johnson held talks with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, discussing both Brexit and the UK and Ireland’s approaches to tackling coronavirus.

Downing Street said the two leaders spoke about the latest round of UK-EU negotiations.

“The Prime Minister said the UK will continue to work hard to reach an agreement and continues to believe that this is possible,” said an official spokesperson for Number 10.


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London, EU continue post-Brexit trade deal talks




The third round of negotiations to seek a permanent post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union (EU) got underway Monday.

Negotiators are conducting intensive week-long discussions using video links between London and Brussels because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fresh round of talks started against a background of disappointment expressed by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier at the conclusion of the previous round of talks last month.

Britain is currently in an implementation period after ending its membership in the bloc on Jan. 31.

A race is now on to make a significant breakthrough before the end of June, the deadline set for a decision to be made on whether to seek an extension of the current implementation period due to expire on Dec. 31.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted he will not extend Britain’s links to the bloc beyond the end of this year.

Over the weekend, Johnson held talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, mainly discussing the COVID-19 crisis.

In London, the Daily Express reported Monday that Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost would issue a fresh warning to Barnier, saying progress must be made on the deadlocked trade talks this month because the British government will not seek to delay them.

The report said Downing Street’s planned rejection of an extension beyond Dec. 31 was fuelled by fears Britain could be locked into swathes of EU coronavirus pandemic legislation.

While Barnier expressed his disappointment on April 24 at the progress in the previous round of talks, Downing Street said limited progress had been made, adding talks needed to move forward in a constructive fashion.

Downing Street confirmed Monday talks were being held and will continue through the week.

A Downing Street spokesperson said, “As the EU looks to deal with the impacts of coronavirus on the 27 member states, they will need to propose all kinds of new legislation which will obviously be designed for the 27, rather than being tailored in a way to suit the interests of the UK. An extension to the transition period would bind us into future EU legislation, without us having any say in designing it.”


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