News & Insights

Weekly Update on Brexit Negotiations: week commencing 14 December 2020

The negotiations go the extra mile…

With talks ongoing between the EU and UK over the trade agreement, the clock is running down, and the end of transition period is looming.

The EU and UK agreed to continue trade talks, to see whether an agreement can still be struck in the remaining 17 days.  Britain’s Chief Negotiator Lord Frost will resume talks with Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday.

The UK and EU did reach an agreement in principle last week on how rules in the Withdrawal Agreement will be implemented in relation to Northern Ireland.  The agreement would ensure “a smooth flow of trade” between Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the transition period ends, and the Government would drop parts of its contentious Internal Market Bill.

Under this agreement:

  • Supermarkets will be given extra time to phase in new checks via a three month “grace-period”, ensuring food supplies from GB to Northern Ireland do not face disruption from 1 January 2021.
  • A new UK trader scheme will be established to ensure that goods shown to remain in Northern Ireland will not be subject to EU tariffs.
  • Export summaries will not be required for goods travelling from Northern Ireland to GB.
  • The supply of medicines from GB to Northern Ireland will avoid disruption, with the industry granted a period of 12 months to adapt to changes.
  • There will be no European Union embassy in Northern Ireland, but EU officials will be permitted at border checks in the region once the transition period ends.

These arrangements will automatically come into force at the end of the transition period alongside the rest of the Northern Ireland Protocol.  It appears therefore that the Northern Ireland will get an uninterrupted flow of goods to the EU and the rest of the UK market.

Monday 14 December

After MPs rejected ten Lords amendments last week, the UK Internal Market Bill returns to the Lords for Consideration of Commons amendments.  The Government withdrew the contentious Northern Ireland clauses from the Bill, so the focus will be on the legal status of common frameworks and the role of devolved governments on future UK spending and subsidy decisions.

Should Peers reject or propose new amendments to the Bill, the Commons will consider new Lords amendments.

Tuesday 15 December

MPs will debate the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill. The Bill proposes changes to the tax system to support continuation of business across the UK, ensuring VAT and customs procedures are in place between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In the Lords, a second day of Report Stage consideration of the Trade Bill.

Peers passed amendments to ensure future UK negotiations are subject to parliamentary approval and that future trade deals comply with the UK’s international human rights obligations.

On the Committee corridor:

In the Welsh Senedd, there will be a debate on the end of the transition period and in the Scottish Parliament there will be a ministerial statement on the future of Scotland’s fisheries.

Wednesday 16 December

MPs will debate a series of orders and regulations – on airports slot allocation, tax credits reviews and appeals, and financial services post-transition.

The Lords will deal with all stages of the Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill following its expected passage through the Commons on Tuesday. As this is a money Bill, Peers cannot amend it in any way.

The Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee will hold a roundtable with representatives of food producers and processors, and hauliers, to hear their concerns for exporting agri-food to the EU next year.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Executive will hear evidence from officials and human rights representatives on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The European Scrutiny Committee will look at the operation of the Channel Tunnel after the transition period, with Transport Minister Rachel Maclean MP. This follows the Committee’s warnings that the lack of post-transition plans for Channel Tunnel safety raises business and continuity concerns.

Thursday 17 December

Both Houses are scheduled to further scrutinise the Bill in case any disagreements remain.

On the Committee corridor:

Looking ahead

  • 14-17 December: Final European plenary session of the year
  • 31 December: Date in law for the end of the transition period