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Brexit latest: Time running out to reach a deal as talks continue

Brexit latest: Time running out to reach a deal as talks continue

This week could be a pivotal week for Brexit and the UK's future relationship with the European Union.

Ok, we've all heard that before, but as the end of the year approaches, time is well and truly running out for a post-Brexit trade agreement to be reached between the UK and the European Union.

Brexit has been rather overshadowed by other news for much of this year, so here's a look at what's happening and why this week could be one to watch...

 

What's been happening with Brexit this year?

Well, a fair bit, actually - and if the world wasn't in the midst of a pandemic, we're pretty sure that we'd have heard much more about it all.

The UK formally left the European Union on January 31 and entered a transition period that runs up to December 31, 2020. During this time, the UK remains part of the single market and some other EU institutions and has to follow their rules, but it has no say in the rules being set. For the time being, being outside of the European Union probably doesn't seem all that different for the average UK citizen, however, change is coming as 2021 arrives...

Post-Brexit trade negotiations have been taking place throughout much of the year to tackle a range of issues around the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Negotiations throughout much of the year haven't gone amazingly and headlines after formal rounds of talks have tended to spell out a message around the theme of 'differences remaining on important issues'.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson set a deadline of mid-October for a post-Brexit trade deal to be reached between the UK & EU, though this deadline has been and gone and talks are still continuing...

 

What happens next?

With the end of the transition period now less than 50 days away, something has got to happen  - and it has got to happen soon. As for exactly what happens is still to be decided.

If a deal is reached between the UK and EU, it would have to be signed off by the UK and all EU member states. If this stage was reached (which it hasn't been yet), it could be assumed that there would be few problems in the deal being ratified in the UK, however, history has taught us that politics is often not that simple. The Government would have to convince MPs to vote in favour of the deal and then, if passed, it would likely be a race against time to get associated legislation dealt with in order to make the deal possible. This would have to happen in the UK but also in Europe and in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, getting everything signed off could be quite a challenge.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a deal will be reached and agreed. If there is no deal, the UK and EU would have to trade under World Trade Organization rules. This would mean that tariffs would be placed on goods and that goods would be subject to extra regulatory checks at borders. Goods may rise in price and become harder to access and the reports speculating about lorry parks and large queues at ports could become a reality.

At the time of writing, neither side has fully committed to the no-deal route and negotiations to try and reach a deal are continuing.

 

Why could this week be pivotal?

Face-to-face talks between the UK and EU are expected to take place in Brussels this week. On Thursday, a videoconference of European leaders is expected to take place and this has been set as the next informal deadline for a deal to be reached. 

A number of senior UK cabinet ministers are now reportedly warning the Prime Minister against pursuing a no-deal, with fears over the impact this could have on the economy, especially in a year majorly disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday that "agreement exists" between the two sides, after telling Sky News there was still "some way between us" in reaching a deal. The UK's chief Brexit negotiator, Lord David Frost has tweeted that there has been "some progress in a positive direction in recent days".

There are mixed opinions over what might happen next, but if no deal has been reached by Thursday, there will no doubt be difficult decisions to be made over how to move forward.

Whether a deal is reached or not, this week looks like one to watch for Brexit developments.

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