With only two months left of 2020, UK-EU trade negotiations continue as the clock ticks louder. Following some communications setbacks in the middle of the week, both negotiating parties are back in London, with Michel Barnier extending his trip through the beginning of this week and further talks in Brussels to begin this Thursday. Nevertheless, EU officials have stated that ‘[they] are still a long way off’ from reaching agreement.
According to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the parties have reached the point where ‘every day counts’. Prior to his meeting in London with David Frost on 22 October, Barnier reconfirmed that it is ‘important to be back at the table’, nodding to the UK threat to leave negotiations, and that both sides share a ‘huge common responsibility’.
EU officials now hope to see agreement by mid-November in order to provide EU Member States and the European Parliament enough time to ratify the deal. Speaking to RTE radio on Sunday, Irish deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar said that ‘on the balance of probabilities it will be possible to agree a free-trade agreement with the UK’.
Meanwhile, RTE reported yesterday that the Irish government is again pressing the EU and UK to allow Northern Irish exporters to benefit from existing and future EU free trade agreements. Such a deal was previous left unsupported by UK and EU governments earlier this year; however, the discussion has been recently raised at the EU-UK Joint Committee. Should such a policy be approved, small businesses in Northern Ireland that export internationally could benefit greatly. It is unclear, however, whether they could choose between EU and UK trade deals, such as the one reached between Japan and the UK last week.