Commission publishes legal agreement on UK free trade negotiations

The European Commission has published a draft legal agreement for the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

The document, which was published on Wednesday, March 18, gives legal backing to the negotiating directives for ongoing free trade talks between the EU and the UK. The directives were approved by member states in late February.

The draft legal text was agreed in consultation with the European Council and the European Commission. Its aim is to “provide a tool to support the negotiations and to enable progress with the UK”.

Michael Barnier, the EU’s leading negotiator in the trade talks, commented: “This text demonstrates that an ambitious and comprehensive agreement on our future relationship is possible, on the basis of the EU’s mandate and the political ambition agreed with the UK five months ago.”

The UK has indicated that it would soon be putting forward similar documents covering some of the elements of the future EU-UK relationship.

The current situation around Covid-19 is hampering the trade negotiations at the moment, with a round of negotiations set for London this week being cancelled.

UK negotiators are currently exploring alternative ways to continue discussions, including, if possible, the use of video conferences.

A commission statement said that both sides remain “in close contact” with each other, and that “substantive work” on the legal texts on both sides will continue over the coming weeks.

Negotiators have also been affected by Covid-19 on a personal level, with Barnier confirming yesterday, Thursday, March 19, that he has tested positive for Covid-19.

Taking to social media yesterday, Barnier said that he is “in good spirits”, adding that those with the virus will “get through this together”.

“I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for Covid-19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” he confirmed.

On the UK side, their lead negotiator is self-isolating after showing symptoms of the virus.

According to a report from Politico, David Frost is showing “mild symptoms” of Covid-19, and had decided to self-isolate. However, he has not yet been diagnosed with the virus.