Ongoing uncertainty of Brexit negotiations has been heightened with the recent revelation of the UK government’s willingness to “remove clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, concerning export declarations”. The law-breaking Brexit bill would have given ministers the right to make regulations on trade with Northern Ireland, breaching the Withdrawal Agreement and therefore international law.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Maros Sefcovic said the deal meant ‘one big obstacle’ was removed from a trade deal being reached. He also stated it could ‘create positive momentum’ for talks. However, the Northern Ireland deal would stand without an EU trade deal, if talks fail.
This comes as Brussels edge towards a possible no-deal Brexit agreement, due to disputes regarding fisheries, governance, and level playing field despite the endgame deadline closing in on the 31st December.
Prime Minister and the EU Commission chief, Ursula Von Der Leyen failed to form an agreement on the evening of Monday 7th December. They released a joint statement agreeing that “the conditions for finalising an agreement are not there due to the remaining significant differences on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries.” The two leaders will now meet in Brussels in person to discuss matters further.
Negotiations between the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser, Lord David Frost and his counterpart the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michael Barnier have also come to a halt. This is despite Mr Barnier, announcing Wednesday 9th December as the “latest conceivable moment” for Brexit negotiations.
This date has since been disputed by the UK government, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson stating “Time is obviously now in very short supply and we are in the final stages but we are prepared to negotiate for as long as we have time available if we think an agreement is still possible.”
No-Deal Brexit Implications
Without a deal, the UK could face an economic crisis across a wide range of sectors, including the farming industry. The EU is the UK’s largest agricultural export market of 70 percent.
The President of the Farmer’s Union, Minette Batters discussed the critical importance of progressing Brexit negotiations as without a deal “there will be significant disruption for British food and farming if there is no deal at the end of the transition period.”
The health and social care sector will also be hit hard, despite already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. A no-deal Brexit could result in an 80 per cent decrease in medical supplies, and the “exacerbating effect of failing to agree to a free trade agreement could see it snap”, according to Layla McCay the International Director of the NHS Confederation.
The government has already had to secure £80m in contingency for supply of There have also been doubts regarding the vaccine, with talks of airlifting the vaccine from Belgium. While, Dr June, the Head of UK Medicines, stated that officials were “fully prepared for any possible outcome.”
The UK’s Pending Future
The UK government must now prepare for all future outcomes regarding Brexit and above all, for more volatility. The Taxation Bill is also being reviewed in Parliament, concerning the Irish Sea and East-West border checks.
The government may be inclined to make changes to meet the demands of the EU in order to agree to a deal before the end of the year. Ministers have stated they will not include any provisions that go against the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Prime Minister stated he was “very hopeful” regarding a Brexit deal, despite the lack of progress. He also acknowledged the difficulty of the current situation, however, expressed that the EU must “understand that the UK has left the European Union in order to be able to exercise democratic control over the way we do things.”
Johnson is expected to voice these views further in a last-ditch meeting in Brussels with Ursula Von Der Leyen, which could commence as early as Wednesday the 9th of December.
[Header image: stock.adobe.com]