Tag Archives: UK

EU adapts to post-Brexit

The European Commission has adopted a Communication to help national authorities, businesses and citizens prepare for the inevitable changes that will arise at the end of the transition period. Changes will occur to cross-border exchanges between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021– irrespective of whether an agreement on a future partnership has been concluded or not.

The British people decided in a democratic election to leave the European Union and its benefits. This means that no matter how hard we now work towards a close partnership agreement, our relationship will inevitably change. My top priority is to ensure that EU citizens and businesses are as well prepared as possible for 1 January 2021” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders will be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Following the UK Government’s decision not to extend the transition period, we now know that these changes will take place on 1 January 2021 – deal or no deal. We are helping them to prepare as best as they can” the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said.

The Communication “Getting ready for changes” sets out a sector-by-sector overview of the main areas where there will be changes regardless of the outcome of the ongoing EU-UK negotiations, and sets out measures that national authorities, businesses and citizens should take in order to be ready for these changes. It in no way seeks to prejudge the outcome of negotiations. As such, it does not examine the possible implications of a failure to reach an agreement, nor does it consider the need for contingency measures.

Its aim is to ensure that all public administrations and stakeholders are ready and well prepared for the unavoidable disruptions caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and to end the transition period this year. These measures complement actions taken at national level.

In parallel, the European Commission is reviewing and, where necessary, updating all 102 stakeholder notices, published at the time of the withdrawal negotiations – many of which continue to be relevant for the end of the transition period. The list of more than 50 updated notices is in annex to the Communication and all are available on the Commission’s dedicated webpage.

The European Commission will work closely with national authorities, businesses and other stakeholders over the coming months to help them prepare for the far-reaching changes that will occur at the end of the year, irrespective of whether an agreement is found.

The Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK secured an orderly departure of the United Kingdom, providing legal certainty in important areas including citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transition period, which ensures that EU law continues to apply to the UK from 1 February 2020 to 31 December 2020. At the end of the transition period, the UK leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union, thereby putting an end to the free movement of people, goods and services. The United Kingdom will also no longer participate in the EU’s VAT and excise duty area, nor in EU policies and programmes, and will stop benefitting from the EU’s international agreements. Changes will affect both sides and happen irrespective of whether or not an agreement on a future partnership between the EU and the United Kingdom is reached.

The EU and the UK are currently negotiating an agreement on a new future partnership, but even if such an agreement is concluded, the future relationship between the EU and the UK will be very different from what it is currently, including the end of frictionless trade.

There will inevitably be barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges. Public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders on both sides will be affected and must therefore prepare.

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.

Barnier reveals «serious divergences» 

“This week, David Frost and I continued our discussions, together with a restricted number of experts on each side” reads the statement of the EU top negotiator Michel Barnier, concluding the week of talks with the UK counterparts on future EU-UK post-Brexit agreement.

As agreed two weeks ago at the High-Level Meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Presidents Ursula von der Leyen, David Sassoli and Charles Michel, the EU sought to inject new dynamics in the talks.

Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement.

However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.

The EU side had listened carefully to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statements in recent weeks, in particular, his request to reach a political agreement quickly, and his red lines: no role for the European Court of Justice in the UK; no obligation for the UK to continue to be bound by EU law; and an agreement on fisheries that shows Brexit makes a real difference.

The EU engaged constructively, as we had already done during the fourth round of negotiations in June. We did so in line with the mandate entrusted to the European Commission by the Council, with the support of the European Parliament.

The EU’s position remains, based on the Political Declaration, that there will be no economic partnership without:

robust guarantees for a level playing field – including on state aid – to ensure open and fair competition among our businesses;
a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for our European fishermen and women;
an overarching institutional framework and effective dispute settlement mechanisms.
And we will continue to insist on parallel progress on all areas.

The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom.

We continue to believe that an agreement is possible and in everyone’s interest.

We look forward to the next round of negotiations in the week of 20 July.

In the meantime, and as agreed, we will continue our discussions in London next week.”

The British top negociator David Frost has also issued a statement, concluding the week of talks.

We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days. Our talks were face to face for the first time since March and this has given extra depth and flexibility to our discussions.
The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.
We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified talks process during July, as agreed at the HLM on 15 June,”
Frost wrote.
Talks will continue next week in London as agreed in the revised terms of reference published on 12 June.”

EU-UK to «work hard» to deliver agreement

Prime Minister Boris Johnson met the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, on 15 June by videoconference to take stock of progress with the aim of agreeing actions to move forward in negotiations on the future relationship.

“The Parties noted the UK’s decision not to request any extension to the transition period. The transition period will therefore end on 31 December 2020, in line with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, the reads the EU-UK Statement following the High Level Meeting on 15 June.

“The Parties welcomed the constructive discussions on the future relationship that had taken place under the leadership of Chief Negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier, allowing both sides to clarify and further understand positions. They noted that four rounds had been completed and texts exchanged despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Parties agreed nevertheless that new momentum was required. They supported the plans agreed by Chief Negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020. This should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement.

“The Parties underlined their intention to work hard to deliver a relationship, which would work in the interests of the citizens of the Union and of the United Kingdom. They also confirmed their commitment to the full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Barnier laments lack of progress

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has blamed the UK of “backtracking” on commitments on fisheries and other issues in post-Brexit trade talks towards the comprehensive agreement.
The EU civil servant regretted no “significant progress” had been made this week, and insisted the UK should “respect” rules agreed with the EU. He aslo suggested political will is needed to give a new momentum to current negociations, describled as largely in stalemate.

At present the UK and EU are are in dispute over competition rules, governance and fishing rights and police cooperation, and other issues.

“My responsibility is to speak to truth and, to tell the truth, this week there have been no significant areas of progress” Barner lamented.
“In all areas, the UK continues to backtrack under commitments undertaken in the political declaration, including on fisheries. We cannot and will not accept this backtracking on the political declaration” he added.

Barnier called for respect of the guidleins and objectives, enshrined for the political declaration, agreed by the UK and EU last year, which indicated objectives for a future relationship.

The UK sherpa David Frost said any Brexit deal would have to accomodate the UK’s well established position on a “level playing field”.

“We have just completed our fourth full negotiating round with the EU, again by video conference. It was a little shorter than usual and more restricted in scope. We continue to discuss the full range of issues, including the most difficult ones” he explained.

Barnier not «optimistic» about Brexit deal

European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on May 15 that the third round of talks with the UK on a new partnership was “disappointing”.

“We’re not going to bargain away our values for the benefit of the British economy,” visibly discontent Barnier said a news conference in the European Commission press centre.

He added the bloc would not seal a new trade deal with London without level playing field guarantees of fair competition or without a comprehensive agreement on fisheries. In the context of COVID-19 virus all the negociations were conducted by telecommunications.

Barnier suggested the UK’s own demands were “not realistic” and warned of a looming stalemate.

The EU chief negociator underlined aim was a “modern, forward-looking” agreement with the UK which would avoid any tariffs or quotas on trade.
He also pointed out that the current talks would shape the relationship between the UK and EU for “decades to come” and the EU would not opt for a deal “at any price”.

When answering questions about the chances of Brexit economic agreement, he said he was “not optimistic, but still determined”, adding that the EU was “stepping up preparations” for a no-deal outcome.

COVID19: EU approves UK £9bn SME aid

European Commission has approved a GBP 9 billion (approximately € 10.3 billion) UK aid scheme to support self-employed individuals and members of partnerships affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April and 8 May 2020.

The UK notified to the Commission under the Temporary Framework a scheme to support lower-end income self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, which have been severely affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme will allow them to continue their activities during and after the crisis.

The scheme will take the form of direct grants and will be applied to all sectors and to the whole territory of the UK.

The Commission found that the UK scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the income subsidy will be granted over a period of not more than twelve months and will be subject to the condition that the activity of the beneficiaries is ongoing and will be maintained; (ii) aid intensity will not exceed 80% of the monthly gross income (including social security contributions); and (ii) aid will not lead to overcompensation.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU State aid rules.

According to the UK Withdrawal Agreement, during the transition period, EU law continues to apply to, and in, the UK as if it were a Member State. This includes all EU rules relating to State aid.

The Commission has adopted a Temporary Framework to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April and 8 May 2020, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States:

(i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments of up to €100,000 to a company active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 to a company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 to a company active in all other sectors to address its urgent liquidity needs. Member States can also give, up to the nominal value of €800,000 per company zero-interest loans or guarantees on loans covering 100% of the risk, except in the primary agriculture sector and in the fishery and aquaculture sector, where the limits of €100,000 and €120,000 per company respectively, apply.

Assange detention degrades UK press freedom

The UK has dropped two places to 35th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF’s) 2020 World Press Freedom Index, published today. Although the UK government played a key role in promoting media freedom globally, its efforts were undermined by domestic developments, including the murder of Lyra McKee and active threats to the safety of journalists in Northern Ireland, and the detention of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who faces possible extradition to the US.

The sentencing of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to a disproportionate jail term of 50 weeks for breaking bail also marred the UK’s press freedom record in 2019, as did the Home Office’s decision to green light the US extradition request. Assange remained in custody at the high security Belmarsh Prison despite widespread international concern for his health and safety, including by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

“With coronavirus and other converging crises presenting unprecedented threats to press freedom globally, it is more important than ever for democratic states to lead by example. The UK should be performing better on the World Press Freedom Index, and must address these domestic concerns as a matter of priority. Concrete steps should be taken to ensure the safety of journalists in the wake of Lyra McKee’s murder, and Julian Assange should be released – and certainly not extradited to the US”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

RSF also noted concern over problematic provisions of counter-terrorism and crime legislation adopted in 2019, as well as the pursuit by the London Metropolitan Police of the publication of leaked information from diplomatic cables as a criminal matter.

The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.

II round of EU-UK talks

Second round of negotiations on future EU/UK relations starts tomorrow. Michel Barnier and David Frost leading large delegations. Looking forward to progress across the board , in spite of COVID-19 -related logistical constraints #NewBeginnings” tweeted EU Ambassador to UK Joao Vale De Almeida.

We need real, tangible progress in the negotiations by June. We must advance across all areas” the EU top negotiator Michel Barnier wrote on his Twitter microblog,

Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs. In short, it is not in the UK’s interest to extend” wrote David Frost on his Twitter.

Both top negotiators had suffered COVID-19. The UK envoy David Frost has followed his counterpart Michel Barnier into self-isolation after being touched by mild symptoms of coronavirus. However this personal situation will not change the general Brexit frame or transition, because the process has to be fulfilled by the 31 of December, which is enshrined in the British law,

COVID19: Raab UK PM «par interim»

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been transferred to intensive care unit in hospital after his coronavirus symptoms “worsened”, Downing Street announced.
A spokesman said this decision has been made upon on the advice of his medical team and Boris Johnson is receiving “excellent care”.

Mr Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise “where necessary”, the spokesman added. There is no futher information availble if this decision of Prime Minister was formalised.

The Boris Johnson, 55, was admitted to hospital in London with “persistent symptoms” of coronavrius on Sunday evening.

A No 10 statement read: “The prime minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus.
Over the course of [Monday] afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital.”
It continued: “The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”

Michel Barnier, the EU top Brexit negotiator, who was also diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, was among those who reacted upon the news of Boris Johnson transfer to intensive care, wishing him “speedy recovery”.

COVID19: China disinformation caused deaths

As the country of origin, China initially allowed disinformation to spread as quickly as the virus. Rather than helping other countries prepare a swift and strong response, it is increasingly apparent that they manipulated vital information about the virus in order to protect the regime’s image“, commented the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, Tom Tugendhat MP. The Committee has published a Report on Viral Immunity – The FCO’s role in building a coalition against COVID-19.

At present over a million of established cases of coronavirus worldwide are reported by medical instances (1,289820) and more than 70 thousands related deaths (70,624). However the experts warn that the statistics available is not exact, because not all dead received conronovirus port-mortem examinations, subsequently the real numbers could be substantionally higher.

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