1 Oct 2020
State of Play of the Trade Negotiations
- The EU and UK met this week for a ninth round of trade negotiations, due to conclude Friday morning. However attempts to find movement on the remaining sticking points appear to have been less than successful, with EU diplomats largely dismissing the new UK papers on fishing rights and the level playing field as inadequate. Negotiations are now expected to intensify further for the coming weeks, as the EU Summit on October 15/16 is largely perceived to be the deadline for a deal to be agreed, if it is to be ratified in time for the end of Britain’s transition period on January 1.
- Trade negotiations continue despite disagreement between the EU and the UK over the UK Internal Market bill which was approved this week by the House of Commons (moving now to the House of Lords for debate) and which seeks to allow the country to override part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, and make unilateral changes with regard to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocols including controls relating to NI-GB trade (specifically on the necessity of “exit summery declarations”) and NI state aid decisions.
- The EU has today launched legal action against the UK for this “breach of the obligation of good faith”. The infringement process will seek to enforce the legal obligations outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement, through the courts. However, it will be a long and uncertain process. As EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, has stated that full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement is a prerequisite of an EU-UK trade agreement, it therefore is more likely that an a political solution, in conjunction with the terms of the trade deal, will be sought, before any process can be completed in the courts.
- Despite the uncertainty raised by the Internal Market Bill, the operating presumption for preparedness planning is that the Withdrawal Agreement will be applied in full, deal or no deal, i.e. there will not be any border on the island or Ireland and goods will pass freely with no checks. Even if the Internal Market Bill is adopted, unchanged, there will not be any immediate impact on the Withdrawal Agreement or its functioning. The Bill only enables the UK Parliament to make unilateral changes, it does not propose to implement those changes.
- However, businesses must continue to prepare for new checks and controls on trade with and through Great Britain, which will be a reality no matter the outcome of the trade negotiations.
- The Irish Government has therefore launched a new Brexit Readiness Action Plan which outlines the steps businesses should take between now and December. It asks businesses to:
- register with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as an importer/exporter and register on TRACES. In both instances please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- register with Revenue and obtain an EORI number
- familiarise themselves with the SPS controls that will come into effect in January. Full information is available online at www.agriculture.gov.ie/brexit
A number of new supports have also been launched, including:
- Ready for Customs Grant: a grant of up to €9,000 will be available through Enterprise Ireland, provided to businesses per eligible employee hired, or redeployed within the business, to a dedicated customs role. More here.
- Skillnet Ireland Clear Customs Online Training: free online customs training with level 6 accreditation (10 hrs over 5 weeks). Apply now here.
- Local Enterprise Office ‘Prepare Your Business for Customs’ Workshops: half day online webinar on October 23, apply here and in-person local workshops, which can be explored here.
- Bord Bia Customs Readiness Practical Training Programme: 7 hours over 3 weeks beginning October 8. For more info click here.
- Revenue Two-Day Seminar on trading agri-food goods: on October 5 & 6 with technical information on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks and requirements. For more info click here.
Latest ICOS Actions
- ICOS’s Alo Duffy, as Chair of the Copa Cogeca Brexit Task Force, together with representatives from FoodDrink Europe and CELCAA, met with Michel Barnier, and his team on July 15 to discuss the latest state of play in the EU-UK Trade negotiations, contingency planning in the event of no agreement and implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.
- ICOS held a meeting with representatives of DG AGRI on September 18 to discuss the impact of Brexit on Irish products produced on an all-Ireland basis in terms of international trade and EU market supports.