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UK Government Prepares for Brexit Trade Negotiations to Fall Through

brexit signs

By The Maritime Executive 09-06-2020 11:55:38

The UK withdrew from the European Union in January, but little has changed in terms of trade: the two sides are still operating under a transition agreement that keeps the existing rules in place. That deal expires December 31, and negotiators from London and Brussels are in an eighth round of talks about what post-Brexit trade will look like. 

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce that his government would be comfortable with ending the talks if they do not produce a result before an upcoming EU summit scheduled for October 15. "If we can’t agree by [October 15], then I do not see that there will be a free-trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on," Johnson said in remarks pre-released to the press on Sunday.  "I want to be absolutely clear that, as we have said right from the start, that would be a good outcome for the U.K. As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it."

The last round of talks foundered on two sticking points: EU fishermens' access to UK waters, and the ability of the UK to deviate from EU rules on state subsidies. EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier warned last week that there have been no meaningful concessions from the UK side, raising questions about the future of any deal. 

Overriding key components

According to the BBC, Johnson's government is already preparing legislation that would override a key element of the proposed Brexit agreement: the internal customs inspection regime in between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which is intended to enable free trade and passage across the land border between the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK). Critics say that altering these rules could threaten the carefully-negotiated arrangements to maintain freedom of movement on the Irish border.

"This would be a very unwise way to proceed," said Simon Coveney, the Irish government's minister for foreign affairs and defense in a brief statement.

"It beggars belief that the government is - yet again - playing a dangerous game in Northern Ireland and sacrificing our international standing at the altar of the prime minister's incompetence," said Labour MP Louise Haigh, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary.