- The NFU's EU exit and international trade team has summarised the UK and the EU's draft working text for a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. Here you'll find a summary of both versions of the agreement.
- You might also be interested in reading our comparison of the two agreements, together with NFU commentary on what the various aspects mean for the UK agri-food sector.
- Following the conclusion of the 4th Round of negotiations in June with "no progress made", both negotiating sides have agreed to deepen the discussions over the next weeks current status of negotiations.
- Negotiating rounds will take place in July, August and in September, face to face if possible.
- To accompany and complement the negotiating round, more restricted meetings will take place to ensure progress in the negotiations.
- The parties have agreed the following calendar in the first instance for July and August, which may be modified as necessary:
- Restricted round in the format of a meeting of the Chief Negotiators and of specialised sessions: week of 29 June to 3 July (Brussels). Agenda here. You can find out more about the sticking points in the restricted round of negotiations here.
- Meetings of the Chief Negotiators / their teams / specialised sessions: week of 6 July (London)
- Meetings of the Chief Negotiators / their teams / specialised sessions : week of 13 July (Brussels)
- Round 5: week of 20 July to 24 July (London)
- Meetings of the Chief Negotiators / their teams / specialised sessions : week of 27 July (London)
- Round 6: week of 17 August to 21 August (Brussels)
Restricted Round w/c 29th June
Following the early finish of the “restricted round” of talks which took place this week between the EU and the UK, the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier released a statement saying that serious divergences remain.
Mr Barnier reiterated that the EU’s position remains the same and that no economic partnership will be established without guarantees for a level playing field, a solution for fisheries and an overarching institutional framework and effective dispute settlement mechanism. The EU is also insisting on parallel progress on all areas of discussion.
The UK’s Chief Negotiator David Frost said in a statement that holding talks in person for the first time since March has added an extra depth and flexibility to discussions, but that talks this week have underlined significant differences on important issues.
Both sides say they remain committed to reaching an agreement. The talks will continue in London in the week commencing 6th July.
Very little progress was made between the third and the fourth rounds of negotiations with the EU accusing the UK of “backtracking” on a number of its commitments under the political declaration.
This was the last round of the first “set” of negotiations ahead of a high-level meeting at the end of June during which the status of negotiations so far will be assessed.
Despite poor progress so far, Michel Barnier stated that it was his belief is that if future, face-to-face, negotiations take place with “mutual respect” there is still time to reach an agreement by the end of October - necessary to allow time for any deal to be ratified ahead of the 31 December 2020.
With the fourth round of negotiations between the UK and the EU just concluded, David Frost, UK chief negotiator, echoed Barnier’s comment on the limited progress achieved at the end of this week. This round was indeed shorter and more restricted in scope with no relevant discussions on SPS or Rules of Origin issues taking place.
However, the UK chief negotiator said that the UK remains “committed to a successful outcome”. The common feeling is that a deal can still be achieved in the tight timescale ahead. In terms of next steps, David Frost acknowledged that negotiators need to intensify and accelerate work. Discussion with the EU Commission on how to do that are ongoing. Another round towards the end of June is on the cards.
Finally, he reiterated that an acceptable deal for the UK will have to accommodate the UK Government’s position on the level playing field and fisheries. The EU exit and international trade team has published a detailed analysis on the UK’s and EU’s proposals for a future agreement. You can read more here.
The agenda for Round 3 of negotiations can be found here.
The third round of the EU-UK negotiations concluded with dissatisfaction at the limited progress made from both sides.
Round 3 of the negotiations allowed both parties to clarify a number of points on issues such as trade in goods, transport and the participation of the UK in the future union programmes. There was also an initial constructive dialogue on fisheries, though positions are currently extremely divergent. Apart from these modest steps, no progress has been made on the other, more difficult subjects:
- A level playing field
- Police and judicial cooperation
- Northern-Ireland protocal
Read the NFU's summary of the negotiations here.
The agenda for Round 2 negotiations can be found here.
The second round of the EU-UK negotiations saw the UK confirm that it will reject any extension to the transition period, meaning there are only 8 months left for three areas of work to be completed:
- Ensure the Withdrawal Agreement is properly implemented
- Preparation for the negative economic consequences that will come at the end of the transition period
- Negotiate a future partnership
The UK is yet to send their full legal mandate to the EU and is implementing confidentiality rules on the proposals they have agreed, meaning we cannot have access to them, unlike the EU's proposals that were sent on the 18 March.
The aim of the second round of negotiations was to have parallel progress on all subjects, including the most difficult ones, but these aims were only partially met this week.
The four areas in which the progress was particularly disappointing this week were:
- The level playing field
- Overall governance of the future partnership
- Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
Michel Barnier and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had agreed to a high level conference in June to take stock of the progress of the negotiations. This leaves 2 weeks of negotiating rounds between now and then. This June deadline also provides an opportunity to take stock on what progress the UK has made on implementing the protocol between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The specialised committee on the protocol will meet on the 30 April, where the UK will need to provide evidence of advancing the introduction of the agreed customs procedures for goods entering Northern Ireland from January 2021.
- Michael Gove has given evidence to the House of Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the EU (27 April). Unsurprisingly, he re-iterated the UK Government position of no extension to the transition period.
- HMG will publish the draft negotiating texts in a matter of weeks.
- The government’s contingency planning for a “no-deal” scenario has been stood down.
- Read more about what Michael Gove said here.
The agenda for Round 1 of negotiations can be found here.
The first round of negotiations was anticipated to be a chance to compare, exchange and ask questions on the respective mandates in order to address points of convergence and divergence.
Despite few details being officially released, the feeling in Brussels following the first was a positive one with feedback from both parties indicating that the meetings were constructive and “business like”. However, it is anticipated that the next round of negotiations will proceed to the detail. This detail will be based on the legal texts set out by both parties which are expected to be released in the coming days.
There was convergence on some objectives, for example civil nuclear cooperation and participation of programmes in the EU, but there were four areas of “very serious divergence”:
- A level-playing field
- Criminal justice and law enforcement
- Governance of the future agreement
In his statement after the meetings Mr Barnier, who will be giving a press conference after each round, spoke of rebuilding a new ambitious partnership with the UK and that, although they are constrained by the time-frame set by the UK, the EU “will do everything to build a basis for a future partnership, whilst defending the interests of citizens, businesses and workers in Europe.”
- Read the EU’s press statement following the first round of the negotiations here
- Read the UK’s press statement following the first round of negotiations here
The European Commission leads the negotiations on behalf of the European Union. The Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom (UKTF) coordinates all issues related to the UK’s withdrawal and its future relationship with the EU. Michel Barnier is the Head of this Task Force.
For the UK, the negotiations are led by the UK’s Chief Negotiator who is the Head of the Task Force Europe (TFE). David Frost has been appointed as Chief EU negotiator.
Both sides will also have relevant figures accompanying the negotiations from across government departments in the UK and the directorate general in the EU.
What are they negotiating?
The negotiating mandate defines the scope and terms of a future partnership between the EU and the UK. These documents cover all areas of interest for the negotiations.
There are 11 negotiating groups which will discuss their topics in parallel during the negotiating rounds. These are:
- Trade in Goods
- Trade in Services and Investment and other issues
- Level Playing Field for open and fair competition
- Energy and Civil Nuclear Cooperation
- Mobility and Social Security Coordination
- Law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
- Thematic Cooperation
- Participation in Union Programmes
- Horizontal arrangements and governance