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Brexit in a page - what do I need to know? | 7 May 2020

Brexit expert Jacqui Bickerton summarises all you need to know about Brexit.

Weekly reflection

  • Michael Gove has given evidence to the Lords EU Committee indicating that the UK may make various concessions during the upcoming negotiations with the EU on a trade deal. Reinforcing the fact that the UK will not extend the transition period, Mr. Gove conceded that the UK may accept tariffs on goods to secure a deal with the EU. Specifically, Mr. Gove told the Committee that “Giving up on the demand for a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal could be acceptable to secure the prize of breaking free of EU rules. If that is the price that we have to pay, then there we go”. It was also acknowledged that will be border checks in the Irish Sea, a fact denied by the UK government to date.
  • Michael Gove has revealed more details on his plan for the new “Customs Agent Academy” which is designed to train 50,000 people on customs form filling that will be required from 1 January 2021. Trade between the UK and EU following the end of the transition period is likely to require significantly more form-filling. The UK government has already committed £34 million for the training of customs agents but is now facing calls for more funding. The customs agents will, following training, receive a recognized qualification and will be employed by companies who continue to trade with the EU. The Director-General of the Institute for Export and International Trade has called for further funding from the UK government and said “In an environment where you’ve got people on furlough and others who have lost their jobs altogether, people could be using this time productively to learn the skills and achieve the qualifications that will fill the professional gap”.
  • Meanwhile, on Tuesday of this week the UK launched its trade negotiations with the United States by way of video conference. The International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, who spoke with Robert Lighthizer who is President Trump’s Chief Trade Negotiator, said she would secure a deal to benefit individuals and businesses in every region and nation of the UK. However, businesses across the UK have been urging the UK government to allow them an active voice during the negotiations. The Federation of Small Businesses said “We must remember that it is businesses, not governments, which use such deals. Only by putting both our shoulders to this wheel – the private sector and government – can we say we are ready to trade. Firms want an active voice at the table”.
  • The end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 brings many different eventualities for many different businesses. The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (“WSTA”) have highlighted the additional work and expense facing their businesses post transition period. In particular, all labels on alcohol bottles will need to be different for the UK and EU to comply with the proposed trade agreement. WSTA have called upon the UK government for a two-year post-implementation period to enable them to exhaust their existing stocks. They are also seeking clarification on the specific importation documentation required for alcohol sales.
  • The Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney has issued a stark warning to the UK government this week in relation to the trade talks. Following analysis of goods being delivered to high street supermarket chains in Northern Ireland from Britain, it has been revealed that firms are facing costs of more than £100,000 per lorry in the absence of regional arrangements. Mr. Coveney said “Unless there is significant progress in those negotiating rounds then I think we are going to reach yet another crisis point in the Brexit negotiations, which from the Irish point of view is very, very serious”.

Key dates

11 May 2020 Further trade deal talks between the UK and EU

June 2020 Final date for the UK to request an extension to the transition period

June 2020 EU Summit to assess the progress of talks

26 November 2020 End date for the trade deal to be finalised

31 December 2020 End of the transition period

To discuss any concerns about how Brexit may impact your business, please contact Jacqui Bickerton or visit our Brexit Hub to find out more. 

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