UK and EU back in the Brexit ring

File:  File: Britain left the EU on 31 January but talks have so far made little headway on agreeing a new trade deal for when a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December.

File:

File: Britain left the EU on 31 January but talks have so far made little headway on agreeing a new trade deal for when a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December.

AFP

BRUSSELS - Trade negotiators from Britain and the EU embark on a fourth round of post-Brexit negotiations on Tuesday, but no-one in London or Brussels expects a breakthrough.

Instead, once the latest cross-Channel video conferences are over, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will meet to decide how to proceed.

A "high-level" June meeting to take stock of the talks was already foreseen in the political declaration signed by both parties alongside the divorce accord.

READ: Five flashpoints in Brexit trade talks

But it may take on more urgency now, as talks between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost have revealed stark differences in approach.

Britain is not now expected to ask for any extension to the post-Brexit transition and so is on track to leave the single market and EU customs union on December 31.

If no trade deal is in place by then, experts predict severe disruption to businesses already reeling from a coronavirus pandemic that no-one expected when Britain voted to leave the union in June 2016.

READ: Brexit to be sealed with final Brussels vote

Frost and Johnson say they only want a simple trade deal that would preserve UK sovereignty while allowing the vast majority of trade to remain tariff-free.

And, rather than placing this under the aegis of a unique EU-UK pact, they want to pursue a series of deals in separate sectors such as trade, fisheries, aviation and energy.

"We expect the round to be constructive and to keep the process on track ahead of the high-level meeting later this month," a British spokesman said.

Source
AFP