Future of EU-UK trade deal remains unclear

The future of trade deal negotiations between the UK and the EU remains unclear, with the UK’s chief negotiator writing to his EU counterpart last week to express concerns over the way the talks are progressing.

The letter from David Frost to Michel Barnier came the same day – May 19 – as the UK revealed its tariff rates for goods coming into the country. These rates will come into effect for EU countries that trade with the UK – including Ireland – on January 1, 2021, if a trade deal is not agreed by that time.

Under the provisions of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the EU and the UK have until the end of this year to agree a free trade deal. If they fail to do so, they will do business on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

For boneless beef arriving in the UK, including from Ireland, the tariff has been set at 12%, plus £253/100kg (12% plus £2.53/kg). This figure is essentially the EU’s common external tariff (CET) converted to pounds sterling, based on an exchange rate of around €1/84p.

The last round of trade deal talks took place on May 15, and did not seem to be constructive, based on Frost’s letter to Barnier.

“We find it perplexing that the EU, instead of seeking to settle rapidly a high-quality set of agreements with a close economic partner, is instead insisting on additional, unbalanced and unprecedented provisions in a range of areas, as a precondition for agreement between us,” Frost argued.

The UK’s lead negotiator also claimed that the EU was holding out on offering certain provisions that are commonly found in other EU trade deals with trading partners.

We find it hard to see what makes the UK, uniquely among your trading partners, so unworthy of being offered the kind of well-precedented arrangements commonplace in modern FTAs [free trade agreements].

The UK side is also taking issue with what it claims are “unbalanced proposals which would bind this country to EU laws or standards”.

“I remain convinced that it would be very straightforward for us to agree a modern and high-quality FTA and other separate agreements, like those you have agreed with other close partners around the world, and that we could do so quickly,” Frost argued.

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