What’s happening with Brexit during COVID-19? Isn’t it all finished?
On January 31st of this year, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union fulfilling the referendum result of 2016 a full four years later. Currently the United Kingdom is in the transition period till December 31st, 2020.
We are halfway through the transition period and still have no considerable ground on the negotiations, add in that the deadline for a possible extension to the agreement talks is coming up on July 1st.
The UK will not seek an extension as stated by the Prime Minister and the negotiation parties last met in March in Brussels.
Currently in the transition period there is not much change in the relationship for the United Kingdom and the European Union. The UK currently is still in the single market and customs union. Additionally, there is no change to travel and freedom of movement (other than coronavirus restrictions).
There are no UK politicians in the European parliament and European Commission. This means currently in the transition period the UK has no voting rights and is still under the judiciary of the European court of justice till December 31st.
Negotiations are currently on hold with both parties waiting it out. The deal is about coming up with the future relationship between the UK and EU with four main areas on contention. The latest news as stated by UK negotiator David Frost on Twitter, talks will restart on June 29th. In a document posted on the gov.uk website, the talks are going to be all week with a full timetable published. There are several issues that must be hammered out to reach an agreement but there are four major sectors of discussion for the UK and EU.
These are the Level playing field, Fisheries, Governance and EU Law.
Level Playing Filed
"Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world's largest single market" European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech at the London School of Economics.
The level playing field is a trade policy around environmental and labour protections between the EU and UK. This sector is of concern to the EU as Britain has stated they will stick to current standards but have not promised to raise their standards if the EU does so. This has caused some panic within the EU negotiators, as hypothetically if the EU increases regulations on businesses and labour, Britain will be more inviting for those on the continent. Both parties have agreed that current standards will not be dropped. As it stands British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted on zero tariff, zero quota and that if Britain wish, they can move away from regulations of the EU and gain a competitive advantage.
Labour rights, environmental protection, taxation, and state aid fall under the level playing field.
Fisheries and UK water access is a major point for the UK, and they insist they will project their sovereign waters and access to them. Britain argued that all such questions should be left up to annual negotiation, befitting the UK's new status as an “independent coastal state”.
Most catches take place in British waters and are distributed across the EU in the form of quotas, France in a major opponent of concessions in the Fisheries debate. Any agreement reached by the negotiators of London and the European Commission would need approval by current EU members. The EU affairs minister of France has stated however if a proposal is good enough for them, they will consider it.
Boris Johnson has said he will take back control of Britain’s “spectacular maritime wealth”. As strong a statement as any, Britain has leverage on this issue.
Governance covers the legislation in place of agreements and operations between the EU and UK. The United Kingdom wants separate governance agreements for fisheries, air travel, trade, security, policing, and law. The European negotiators would like an agreement on all the topics while the United Kingdom wants separate agreements for each governance issue. A separate policy for security, a separate policy for trade etc.
It very well could be that that the insistence of negotiating for separate agreements around Governance is a tactical move by Britain whereby they could very well trade each sector off each other in order to gain some ground in a preferred sector and uphold their own words that they will be free to diverge if they wish to.
The role of Law and security is up for discussion also. The role of the Court of Justice of the European Union is major cause of negotiation. The role of the CJEU would protect the rights of Europeans in the UK and would interpret any laws the UK in bind too. However, the UK is insisting that the CJEU has no role in UK-EU disputes and that the CJEU must not impede on the British legal system in any way. Leaving the UK autonomous in their protection and interpretation of human rights between UK-EU cases.
The EU wants Britain to agree to the European court of human rights which would allow a UK citizen in a British court to invoke their European human rights (By EU Court) during a trail.(Human rights ACT 1998) Rather than the UK complete separation from EU Law and Justice the EU wants Britain to uphold and continue to be bound to the EU legal system.
There are several other topics in the talks that are available on the timetable provided by the negotiation team of the United Kingdom government.