|By ClemRutter, Rochester, Kent. - Own work,|
CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2163988
A lot happened in May. Mr David Frost presented British proposals for a comprehensive free trade agreement with accompanying agreements on various other matters (see Jane Lambert Better Late than Never - The UK Counter Proposals in the New Relationship Negotiations 19 May 2020). Michel Barnier answered David Frost's shrill and petulant covering letter from David Frost of 19 May 2020 with a firm but measured and courteous response the very next day. The British government resumed its negotiations with the USA for a free trade agreement on 5 May 2020 and published its proposals for a free trade agreement with Janan.
The British proposals are structured very differently from the draft agreement of 18 March 2020 but they are a substantial set of documents and contain many provisions upon which the Commission ought to be able to agree. It is said that Mr Frost's letter irritated many on the continent but they will be aware that Mr Frost and his political masters have an audience of Conservative backbenchers and a Eurosceptic press. Another round of negotiations begins today on an agreed agenda. For the first time since negotiations began, both sides' proposals have been exchanged.
If there is to be an extension to the 11th-month transition or implementation period it has to be agreed in June. A bill to extend that period has been introduced into the House of Commons by Sir Edward Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats. It is supported by the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, the Alliance Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland but not the Labour Party and it has been welcomed by Monsieur Barnier in a letter dated 25 May 2020 (a copy of which can be downloaded from this blog's EU negotiations page. Labour's reticence has surprised some but it can probably be explained by the fact that he party under its new leader is doing rather well in the polls and sees no advantage in picking fights that it can't win,
Many commentators are gloomy about the outcome of the new relationship negotiations but I am not so sure. A lot of work has been done on the British draft agreements which would have been pointless had they been intended to fail. The UK needs continued access to the single market more than its negotiators concede because there is no obvious alternative. With the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world and record unemployment, the US economy is in an even worse mess than ours. It now has race riots in its major cities with which to contend. Relations with the other economic superpower have deteriorated still further with the Chinese government's clampdown on Hong Kong.
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