Although the UK Prime Minister’s suppositional negotiating deadline may have been last Thursday, UK-EU trade negotiations remain both ongoing and largely at the same impasse(s).
Going into the EU Council Summit on 15-16 October, EU leaders reportedly wanted to reduce political drama around Brexit. According to Michel Barnier, the EU was seeing some movement on state aid and the level playing field and that his task force was considering proposing a state aid ‘toolbox’ containing: (i) high level principles, (ii) a strong national regulator, (iii) a dispute settlement mechanism and (iv) autonomous retaliatory measures that both sides could trigger instead of arbitration.
Following the first day of the Council Summit, Michel Barnier said, ‘[The EU] remain[s] determined to reach a fair deal. We will do everything we can – but not at any price. Our team will continue intensive discussions over the coming weeks. We remain calm, united, determined.’
By the end of the 15 October, all hopes of reaching a conclusion on FTA negotiations were abandoned. Speaking to the press, French President Macron confirmed that fisheries have become the largest roadblock in negotiations; Dutch Prime Minister expressed his cautious optimism but recognised that ‘movement from the UK side is really necessary’; and Angela Merkel stated that ‘all the effort is worth it’. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney took a sterner tone, saying that it is the UK that has ‘moved away from commitments made a year ago and now has unrealistic demands’. The European Council concluded that it will ‘remain seized of the matter’ (sic).
Moving forward, Michel Barnier will meet today with David Frost while Commissioner Šefčovič meets with Michael Gove. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain predicts 15 November will be the next deadline for talks.