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Talks on the new relationship continued between British and EU officials throughout August but without outwards signs of progress. In a speech to the Institute of International and European Affairs published on 2 Sept 2020, Michel Barnier complained of the UK's failure to engage in discussions on:
- credible guarantees for open and fair competition particularly in state aid, labour and environment;
- fisheries; and
- dispute settlement.
Monsieur Barnier acknowledged the UK's avowed ambition for a clean break but noted that its negotiators wanted to keep many of the advantages of EU membership such as transport, trading conformity assessment for its goods and police and judicial cooperation. He also expressed concern at the British request to renegotiate indications provisions of the withdrawal agreement and at progress of implementing the Northern Irish protocol.
The British request to renegotiate the geographical indications provisions of the withdrawal agreement is curious because it is not clear what the British government wants to put in their place. As she had mentioned GIs several times in her talk to the Informa IP Law Summer School, I asked Olivia Wessendorff of the Department of International Trade, one of the negotiators for the free trade agreement with Japan, whether she could share any insight on the changes that the government desired (see Virtual Cambridge: Informa Connect's IP Law Summer School 2020 22 Aug 2020 NIPC Training). She replied that her department was not responsible for negotiations with the EU. The last she had heard the government intended to create a GI regime on the lines of the EU one.
In his speech to the Institute Monsieur Barnier warned that from the 1 Jan 2021 British financial services firms will lose their passporting rights, Britsh manufacturers' type approval will cease to be recognized and there will be customs formalities at all EU ports and airports even with the most favourable trade deal. The Britsih government appears to be resigned to greater birder formalities for it has recently announced £50 million funding for new customs intermediaries and completed a consultation on a new border strategy for 2025. Clearly, anybody hoping to do substantial business with EU countries after that date (particularly financial and professional services providers) should have started planning for those realities.
Probably by the end of this month and certainly by the end of October, we should know whether there will be a new partnership agreement. Neither side sounds particularly hopeful. How much difference any such agreement will make is debatable. Anyone wishing to discuss this article or anything mentioned or referred to it it should call me on +44 (0)20 7474 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.