The fourth round of UK-EU future relationship talks are due to get underway today.
The talks are designed to look for an agreement over the future relationship between the UK and EU after the UK formally left the European Union on January 31 this year, following the country’s historic vote to leave the bloc in 2016.
The talks, which are to be spread over four days, are set to cover a variety of topics – notably on fisheries, trade in goods and services, energy, aviation and social security.
After the previous set of talks, the UK chief negotiator David Frost accused the EU of pursuing “novel and unbalanced proposals” that would “bind the UK into EU law or standards” – an indication that negotiations had not been going well. Mr Frost said last month that there had been “very little progress towards an agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us”.
Fishing arrangements between the UK and EU have so far proved to be a significant sticking point for the future agreement.
The UK is currently in a transition period – meaning that current rules on trade, travel and business between the UK and EU continue to apply as before. During this time, the UK remains a member of both the EU customs union and single market – but it has no voting rights in the EU and has to follow their rules during the transition period.
The transition period is currently scheduled to end at the close of 2020, with new rules taking effect on January 1, 2021. Many have expressed concerns about the short time period to come to an agreement, especially given the reportedly slow progress so far on key issues and the current Coronavirus pandemic meaning some resources have been diverted away from the talks. Speaking to Parliament in May though, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reaffirmed Britain’s commitment not to extend the transition period.
Given the outcome of the last talks and the refusal of either side so far to drop its major red lines, it seems unlikely that this week’s talks will prove much more successful. Many will though be hoping for a positive outcome, fearing the uncertainty of what could happen in the event that no agreement can be reached by the end of the year.