Remember Brexit? While the main focus of attention this year has been the Coronavirus crisis, each passing day has meant that the transition, or implementation period has been counting down to a conclusion. Today there are 100 days to go.

The Withdrawal Agreement deadline for extending the post-Brexit transition period expired on 30 June. This means the transition or implementation period will end on 31 December and UK-EU trade arrangements will then revert to World Trade Organization rules if no new UK-EU Trade Agreement has been ratified and implemented by that date.

UK/EU trade negotiations to reach a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) began in March, and four full rounds of negotiations had taken place by early June. The UK and EU agreed to intensify negotiations and weekly talks took place in June and July.

The intensified talks did not result in a deal. On 29 July, the UK and EU arranged for three further rounds from mid-August to the end of September (the eighth round).

The eighth round of Brexit negotiations concluded on 10 September. Little progress was made in this round, with the main issues around fisheries and level playing field still obstructing an agreement.

Time is running out for an agreement to be reached, particularly now that the Prime Minister has set a deadline of 15 October. This would provide a tight timescale for ratification by Parliament and consideration by the devolved legislatures and administrations.

On the European side, the EU has said an agreement would need to be put for political approval by the EU Heads of State and Governments at the European Council on 15-16 October.

The EU’s formal ratification procedures would require a commission proposal for a Council decision authorising the signing of the agreement at the end of October or early November. The agreement would be sent to the European Parliament following the Council decision in mid-November. The European Parliament would need to consent to the agreement by way of a vote, probably in December.

At this time both sides have expressed the wish that an agreement will be achieved but this is subject to the issues that have arisen during the negotiation rounds as well as political issues arising from the UK Internal Market Bill, and future compliance by the UK with the European Convention on Human Rights. If there is an agreement, it will not be the Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement which the UK wanted – it is likely to be a shorter, less detailed version with many aspects of the UK’s relationship with the EU needing negotiation, agreement and implementation during 2021 such as Criminal Judicial Cooperation and the other topics on which the UK sought a number of separate agreements.

So while there is hope for an agreement, preparation must be made for no agreement being reached. Michael Barnier has said ‘Nobody should underestimate the practical, economic and social consequences of a “no deal” scenario’.... Which is why the EU has prepared this paper on Civil Justice after the transition.

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