The 7th round of the EU-UK negotiations: what next?

The seventh round of the UK-EU negotiations took place in Brussels between the 14th and 21st of August 2020. Even though the end of the transition period is just four months away, no significant progress has been reported.

Michel Barnier, Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, in a press conference on the 14th of August 2020, expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress made and declared that an agreement before the end of the year seems highly unlikely. He also stated that negotiations seem to be regressive rather than progressive; further stressing the unfeasibility of UK-EU reaching an agreement. Although slight progress has been made regarding technical topics such as energy, participation in EU programs, and money laundering, there is still no progress made on contentious issues like fisheries. Barnier summed up his press conference by stating that he was unable to comprehend “why we are wasting valuable time”. 

To add to this, no attempt has been made to level the playing field in the UK-EU negotiations. EU continues to utilise EU standards as a reference point whilst proposing obligations to maintain high standards in areas such as competition, state aid, environment, climate change, employment, and relevant tax matters. UK, however, is strongly opposed to accepting any obligations that involve giving up control of its own laws or provide EU institutions with jurisdiction in the UK. Wolfgang Münchau, in his article for Financial Times, suggests that EU’s own competition policy regime seems to have shifted away from a rule-based law-enforcement approach to a more politicised one. For example, the recent discretionary policy implemented by EU to protect European interests against China and US tech companies. Thus, EU cannot expect UK to not formulate one of its own. He also suggests that Brexit is not really as bad as it sounds and encourages officialsto focus on exploiting its potential instead of simply minimizing its costs. According to Münchau, a successful Brexit should be based on prioritizing high-tech military products, military and civilian artificial intelligence, 3D printing, data collection, and the future economic strategy of the UK. Although this notion is beneficial for London, south-east England, and places like Cambridge’s Silicon Fen, it fails to take into account the smaller British towns, parts of Wales, and Scotland where majority of the blue- collar workers reside. These places might be forgotten as a result of Brexit, thus, a positive outcome from the UK-EU negotiations will only be one which leads for the betterment for the whole of the UK.

Furthermore, Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, is set to leave this post to become a political director in the newly created Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FDO).  It is crucial to find a suitable replacement for him, especially during this critical time for UK-EU negotiations.

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