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Brexit Bulletin – 30 April 2020
Brexit Bulletin – 30 April 2020

While the country is in lockdown, difficult negotiations continue between the UK and Brussels - and the Government remains insistent on a 31 December end to the Transition Period.

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In this month's Bulletin:

1. Brexit update
2. What happens next?
3. Immigration update
4. Latest court action
5. Northern Ireland update
6. Latest publications

1. Brexit update

The latest round of negotiations took place 20-24 April via video conference, with 10 negotiating teams taking part in 40 sessions.

With media outlets reporting a consequent impasse between the two sides. UK negotiators remain adamant that Brussels must let go of core principles of its stance, including demands that the UK guarantee long-term access to its fishing waters and sign up to a regulatory "level playing field."

On returning to work on 27 April the Prime Minister warned EU leaders they will have to change tack if there is to be a post-Brexit trade deal made anytime soon. There is now just two months to go until both sides take stock of whether an agreement is possible and, if they think it isn't, to decide whether to extend the Transition Period.

The Government insists that there will be no need to extend the Transition Period beyond the end of 2020, despite the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, speaking to a House of Commons Committee, Michael Gove said that the pandemic "in some respects should concentrate the minds of EU negotiators in underlining the importance of coming to a conclusion." He went on to say that a prolongation would require Britain to make a financial contribution to the EU budget that "could be spent on our NHS."

Many remain sceptical that a deal can be done within the given time period. Norbert Röttgen, chair of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee and a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told media that "Boris Johnson must extend the UK's transition out of the EU for up to two years to avoid compounding the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic with a hugely disruptive and disorderly Brexit." He said "it was now impossible to see how the UK and other EU countries could agree even a minimal outline free trade agreement this year because the talks were so behind schedule."

The Scottish National Party have also demanded a two-year extension.

A spokesman for the PM said that the UK negotiating team was ready to keep talking "but that doesn't make us any more likely to agree to the EU's proposals in areas where they are not taking into account the UK's status as an independent state."

2. What happens next?

- The Prime Minister is expected to take a bigger role in talks over May and June
- Two further negotiating rounds are planned before an EU-UK stocktaking summit in June. These will be in the week commencing 11 May and the week commencing 3 June
- 30 June - deadline for any extension to be agreed
- 31 December - end of Transition Period unless an extension is made

3. Immigration update

The Immigration Bill, which sought to limit UK entry for low-skilled migrants, was removed from the House of Commons Order Paper this week by the Government. The Bill was due to have its Second Reading, but it is thought to have been shelved or at least delayed following a discussion among ministers last week in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

4. Latest court action

A group of campaigners have filed a court case with the General Court of the European Union that argues EU citizenship is permanent status regardless of Brexit.

The activists believe that legally, UK citizens continue to hold the status, even when the transition period ends, allowing them to freely move and work in all 27 countries of the bloc.

The case acknowledges that not all rights will be applicable to UK residents - such as the right to vote or stand in European elections - but believe freedom of movement rights can still be preserved. The campaigners argue that such status cannot be removed without their consent.

If successful it would allow UK citizens to remain EU citizens.

5. Northern Ireland update

The Ireland/Northern Ireland specialised committee (INISC) will meet for the first time on 30 April. The Cabinet Office confirmed that the INISC will be "comprised of official-level representatives of the EU and the UK" and will "meet as regularly as required to facilitate engagement between the UK and the EU on protocol implementation."

A working group will also be set up to feed into the committee, to which it is thought industry bodies will be able to submit.

Thomas Lieflaender, the deputy head of the European Commission's Brexit task force, is being tipped to lead the INISC along with a senior figure from the Northern Ireland office, possibly Andrew McCormick, the NI executive's director general of international relations.

One urgent task is to look at what goods will be subject to tariffs when crossing the Irish Sea using data on trade journeys and the goods "at risk" of entering the single market by crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland.

The location of border inspection posts for controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea has yet to be decided (unsurprisingly given Johnson has insisted there would be no checks). The EU would prefer posts to be located in places such as the ports of Liverpool and Cairnryan in Scotland.

Source: The Guardian


30 April 2020

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Carys Davis
Carys Davis
Public Affairs Adviser
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