As Britain and the European Union have started reopening their economic activities in the post-pandemic recovery process, negotiations between the two sides over a post-Brexit trade deal have intensified in Brussels. On Monday, the EU and the UK initiated five weeks of intense negotiations for a Brexit deal with an initial round of face-to-face talks since the pandemic lockdown halted the process. UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counter Michel Barnier met in person for the first time since the deal talks began in March
With London expressing keenness on finalizing the deal as soon as possible, the meetings are set to take place every alternate week between Brussels and London through July and August end. Amid the Coronavirus shutdown, the negotiations were earlier taking place virtually with no conclusion in place.
During Monday’s meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson virtually interacted with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, following which he expressed confidence over a trade deal soon. Notedly, London has refused to extend the transition period which ends in December 2020. So, both sides have agreed to put a deal in place by October which further has to be ratified by the European Commission by the end of this year. EU diplomats have also asserted that both sides are determined to reach a trade deal agreement as soon as possible, but there has been gloomy progress so far.
If no deal is agreed, Britain will have to do trade with the EU on the rules of WTO (World Trade Organisation) which can critically damage .its economy at a time when the country is emerging from severe ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. No deal will not only send the UK into an economic shock but will also critically affect its close neighbours including Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands. To speed up the process, British and European senior officials have taken charge of the talks with more than 100 people on the negotiating teams of both sides being reduced down to just 20.
Britain’s business leaders have also expressed concerns over the outcome of the deal. With pandemic lockdown triggering a recession, businesses are struggling for survival in the UK. According to the Confederation of British Industry, no Brexit deal would intensify the burden on the recovery of businesses at such a difficult time. The British government is also under pressure from business groups who have been seeking clarity on trading rules to be followed from next year.
Meanwhile, David Frost has been appointed as the new National Security Adviser of the UK and will be replacing Mark Sedwill in September. However, he will continue to serve as Britain’s Brexit negotiator as long as negotiations proceed.