Brexit Update - Deadline Passed, But Negotiations Still Going

two cubes, one decorated with a UK flag, one with an EU flag.

This Sunday was supposed to be the last day of negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom about the Brexit Trade Agreement. While the negotiators didn’t come to a deal, they also didn’t come to an end of the negotiations. 

The Same Three Stumbling Blocks 

The stumbling blocks for the negotiations are still the same. 

1. Fishing Rights: while fishing contributes only marginally to the British economy, Johnson has made it a big point to deny European ships to fish in British waters or give them very limited access for fishing. Currently, the largest part of the fish caught in the North Sea is caught in British waters. Losing access to the British fishing grounds would be a much harder blow for European fishing companies than their British counterparts. Johnson has even threatened to use the British Royal Navy to go after trespassing European ships post-Brexit. 

The French responded tongue in cheek: 

“Keep calm and carry on,” an Elysee official said, resorting to a British wartime slogan in response to London’s decision to assign four Royal Navy patrol vessels if the Brexit transition period ends without a trade agreement. 

The official declined further comment. 

2. Competition: it is important for the European Union that the competition between European companies and British companies is fair. Therefore it wants the United Kingdom to adhere to European standards for things like health and safety regulations, labour and social standards, state aid for companies, etc. The fear is that British companies may have an unfair advantage and that because of this unfair advantages British products will flood the European market. 

3. Disputes: when the standards are not adhered to, the European Union wants the European Court to rule on disputes and the United Kingdom is having none of that. 

For a more elaborate overview of the differences, please see this article by The Guardian

Negotiations Still Going 

While both parties have expressed themselves in strong language in the past days, the negotiations are still ongoing, which means that both parties still see room to reach a deal. The new deadline set for the negotiations is the same as the absolute final Brexit deadline of December 31st. 

There is so little time left that any deal agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union will have to be ratified after the 31 December, in January 2021, by all the member states. 

We will keep you posted on further developments.