Brexit 5: Negotiations and Contradictions

By Felix Zadek-Ewing July 24, 2020 5:15 pm

From Russia with Love?

The UK government this week rejected any suggestion that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was influenced by Russian interference. This comes after a report undertaken by parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which stated that the government had failed to try to find out whether Russia had meddled in the Brexit vote, after which Johnson’s government reaffirmed its refusal to launch a review.

The report suggested that Russia posed a significant threat to Britain and called for the intelligence services to probe possible Russian interference in Brexit.

Instead, the government said it had taken certain measures since the review and would bring forward legislation to oppose “hostile state activity” to deal more effectively with the potential threat.

Not for sale

Conservative MPs this week defeated a Labour amendment to the Trade Bill which would have barred any deal which “undermines or restricts” the UK’s public-funded health service. The amendment would have banned any deal that undermined the ability “to maintain the quality and safety” of the NHS and guaranteed the UK’s ability to control the pricing of medication patient data.

Tory ministers insisted the amendments were not needed, arguing that no element of the NHS will be up for sale in a future trade deal and that standards will never be lowered.

Meanwhile, while doctors, dentists, teachers, judges and police officers are among those who will receive public sector pay rises next year, Rishi Sunak announced that nurses and care workers will not be receiving an increase in salary, with the government insisting alternative pay rise schemes have already been set up for them.

EU United

EU leaders this week announced a €1.82 trillion budget and COVID-19 recovery package, which comprises of jointly borrowing a €750 billion recovery fund to be shared as grants and loans.

Talks lasted so long that leaders of Ireland and Luxembourg were forced to leave Brussels briefly in order to travel home, before returning to continue with negotiations later on.

European Council president Charles Michel called it a “good deal”, stating that “Europe is solid” whilst French president Emmanuel Macron called it an “historic day for Europe”.

No-gotiations

The EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said that there has been no progress on two “essential topics” in the most recent trade talks with the UK, stating the negotiations could be heading for failure unless Britain alters its position., Barnier said the two sides remained divided on how to ensure a “level playing field” between EU and UK businesses, as well as the other issues causing friction, such as access to British fishing waters.

Despite the negative rhetoric, both sides underlined that talks had not broken down and will continue next week in a more specialised format, as previously planned, and Barnier has praised the “very professional” approach of the UK negotiating team and said that discussions had been somewhat “constructive”.

David Frost, Barnier’s UK counterpart, admitted that Boris Johnson’s hope of securing a provisional deal by the end of July has not been met, but indicated that both sides had shown some sides of flexibility during three days of talks. Frost said, “despite all the difficulties, on the basis of the work we have done in July, my assessment is that an agreement can still be reached in September”.

Babies against Brexit

In bad news for parents, families with young children are facing higher costs to their weekly shop after Brexit because with the UK Government planning to impose higher import tariffs on baby food and formula milk.

The tariff on baby foods could average 17% on the price of the product, while formula milk could rise by 6%. Ministers are also planning higher tariffs on the specialist pureed food used for tube feeding for cancer and intensive care patients, including those suffering from Covid-19.

The higher tariffs were revealed by the British Specialist Nutrition Association (BSNA), which is now appealing to the Government to scrap the plans, seeking to avoid higher bills for the NHS and young families.

The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at chris.whitehouse@whitehouseconsulting.co.uk

By Felix Zadek-Ewing July 24, 2020 5:15 pm

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