Last Friday, the UK and the EU completed the fourth round of negotiations on the future trade and partnership agreement.

Statements made by the respective heads of negotiations, David Frost and Michel Barnier, challenge optimistic views on the outcome: David Frost said that “progress remains limited” and Michel Barnier noted that “there has been no substantial progress since the beginning of these negotiations” in early March.

What happens next?

Negotiations will continue with the parties trying to find common ground on tricky issues such as level-playing field provisions and fisheries. We have previously blogged about the differences between the two draft agreements.

The transition period currently runs until 11pm UK time on 31 December 2020 which gives little time for the negotiations to be completed (Barnier even suggested that a full draft would need to be agree by the end of October at the latest to allow for ratification on both sides).

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that any extension of the transition period would have to be agreed prior to 1 July 2020 and this seems an unlikely turn of events given the UK Government’s consistent position (repeated this week) that it will not agree to such an extension.

The parties will convene for a high-level conference later this month as agreed in the political declaration to take stock of the negotiations. The exact timing is currently under discussion (the conference might take place as late as after the EU27 leaders meeting on 19 June).

Further “no-deal” preparations

The European Commission continues to review – and where necessary update – the more than 100 sector-specific “stakeholder preparedness notices” it published during the Brexit negotiations. Those updated notices are now called “readiness notices” and are intended to prepare businesses and individuals for the “undesired scenario of no agreement on the future relationship”.

Since our last update on the parties’ preparations for a “no-deal” at the end of transition, a further 16 documents have become available:

The UK Government is also preparing for a “no-deal” outcome of the trade negotiations, however less “openly” at this point than the European Commission (see our previous update here). Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General, speaking in the House of Commons this week said, however, that it “would be prudent and wise for us to prepare for every scenario”.

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