While most of us are focused on the Coronavirus outbreak and coping with self-isolation or ‘social distancing’, the Brexit process is still pressing ahead (although, given the circumstances, mainly by videoconference).
The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020; however, there are two main strands of work to be undertaken in the coming weeks and months: making sure that the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented, and concluding an agreement on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
Unless and until the parties agree an extension of the transition (or implementation) period, the separation process will be fully completed at 11pm (UK time) on 31 December 2020. At the time of writing, the UK Government has not expressed any intention to ask for an extension due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement
The first meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement took place on Monday 30 March 2020 by teleconference.
The Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, sets out the legal obligations of both parties during the transition (or implementation) period. Importantly, these include obligations with regards to EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, as well as obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
On implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in particular, the parties agreed on the importance of the UK setting out its plans over the coming months.
In this first meeting, the UK and the EU also decided to launch the work of the six Specialised Committees on the key areas for the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement (including Citizens’ Rights, Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, Protocol on Gibraltar, and Financial Provisions).
The next meeting is expected to take place in June.
Post-Brexit trade talks
The trade negotiations are led by the UK’s chief EU negotiator David Frost and his European counterpart Michel Barnier, both of whom have had to go into self-isolation over the past couple of weeks, with Monsieur Barnier testing positive for Covid-19.
Two rounds of talks have been postponed and the timetable for videoconferencing to replace the face-to-face meetings is yet to be published (and indeed agreed upon). While both sides remain committed to the negotiations, it remains to be seen how much can realistically be achieved in the time that remains and with the additional Coronavirus complications.
On April 9, 2020