#EUCO: EU-UK future relations at stake

Brussels 13.10.2020 Today the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has informed the EU Ministers on the state of play of talks between the block and the UK, and the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. He also confirmed the “strong EU unity” ahead of European Council on October 15-16. Barnier added that the EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks.

Ahead of the Council European Council President Charles Michel has called the British government to put “all cards on the table” respecting to Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. “To get to a deal, we need significant steps by our British friends in the coming days”, he added.

“We have given a very strong signal to the British government: If the Finance Bill is introduced with that provision in it, many in the EU will see that as an indication that the British government simply doesn’t want a deal. It would be a second piece of legislation designed to deliberately break the Withdrawal Agreement text”.

With the 15 October European Council date approaching, the negotiations between the EU and the UK are becoming more intense to meet the deadline.

Michel Barnier next travelled to London to meet with UK Chief Negotiator David Frost, while informal talks continued this past week. European Council President Charles Michel and Prime Minister Johnson spoke by phone on 7 October to discuss the progress of the intensified negotiations ahead of the 15 October Summit.

Since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s joint statement over the weekend, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier travelled to Berlin on Monday to meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The latter stressed the pandemic has made the negotiations with the UK even more difficult. Regardless of this hurdle, Maas added a no-deal Brexit would be “irresponsible”, saying the EU remains open to establishing a “close and ambitious partnership” with the UK. He warned, however, that progress is needed at this stage of the talks on state aid, the Irish border and dispute resolution.

Meanwhile, the UK Government announced its intention to push through a Finance Bill (not yet published) for approval by the end of the year could prove problematic for achieving a deal with the EU. The Bill is expected to include clauses which would allow the UK Government to make unilateral decisions about which goods were “at risk” of being traded on from Northern Ireland into the EU, and should therefore be subject to tariffs. The EU argues that this would be a further breach the Withdrawal Agreement and may therefore risk a no-deal exit scenario.

On October 7 in a separate procedure the Scottish Parliament voted to withhold consent on the UK’s Internal Market Bill. Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have stated the Bill overrides their powers of administration.

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