Brexit Bulletin, 13 November 2020

Nov 12, 2020

With no breakthrough in the Brexit deadlock yet again, recent media reports have stated that a week of intensive negotiations that were initially set to wrap up today will more than likely be continued over next week. Read today’s bulletin to find out more about the current state of play, the outcome of the UK House of Lords vote on the Internal Market Bill, and how Ireland’s sea freight operations have come up as a highly viable alternative to the UK “land bridge”, according to a new Irish Maritime Development Office report.

No breakthrough in Brexit deadlock this week, as another deadline passes by

With only 48 days left to the end of the Brexit transition period deadline, it seems that this week’s intensive negotiations between the EU and the UK have not resulted in agreement, yet again. The meetings that were initially set to wrap up today, will more than likely be continued over the next week. With serious divergences stopping the negotiations from moving forward from its current deadlock, it seems unlikely that a deal can be reached before the end of November. Speaking about the matter, Irish minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that “talks between the UK and the European Union on a post-Brexit trade deal are likely to run into next week, missing a mid-November deadline”. With the clock ticking down, the possibility of a comprehensive deal being stuck in a matter of days seems slim.

Internal Market Bill suffers crushing defeat

Additionally, in a turn of events, the highly contentious Internal Market Bill has suffered a significant blow as members of the House of Lords vote in favour of removing the aspects of the Bill that would directly undermine the Withdrawal Agreement ratified earlier this year.

Members voted in favour of removing clause 42 of the bill, which included provisions on the Northern Ireland Protocol, and clause 44 which would override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement relating to Northern Ireland. This is important as these particular provisions could give the UK government the power to breach the Withdrawal Agreement and make unilateral decisions in relation to Northern Ireland without consulting the EU.

“Brexit could spell disaster for supermarkets in NI”, write NI political leaders

First Minister and Deputy Minister of Northern Ireland have issued a joint letter to the EU, highlighting the problem of the need for checks and controls on food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain from 1 January 2020 and how that might impact on the supply of food to supermarket chains. This particular situation arises as under the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, 1 January 2021 onwards Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory, but will comply with EU customs law. This includes necessary SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary checks).  In response to this letter, European Commission spokesperson Daniel Ferrie has reiterated the need for health and safety checks but has also said that the EU is exploring all options available under EU law in order to address the issue of supermarkets in Northern Ireland.

However, in a recent media report, the European Commission and UK government are discussing a possible grace period to allow retailers in Northern Ireland time to adapt to the significant changes that will come into effect on 1 January under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Food Drink Ireland have highlighted similar concerns in a new report, which warns that additional customs procedures, regulatory burdens, and rising transport costs could disrupt food supply chains, between Ireland, and the UK and mainland Europe.

 

Irish sea freight operators come out as viable alternatives to avoid UK ‘land bridge’

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) has found that Irish/EU exporters currently reliant on the UK’s widely used “land bridge” to transport goods between continental Europe and Ireland can switch over to sea routes, only if adequate measures to prepare are taken now. EU-based companies shipping goods between Ireland and mainland Europe should field-test potential sea options now, has been the guidance from the Department of Transport. In a recently published report, the IMDO takes stock of Ireland’s maritime trade links by assessing the impact of Brexit and COVID-19 on the same. They also highlight the sea freight links capacity as a potential contingency approach. However, this may not be possible in all instances of transporting goods, for example when perishable foods, or time sensitive goods are being transported across.

Separately, ferry companies operating on the Irish Sea are now preparing to undertake additional customs paperwork when moving between UK and Ireland in hopes of speeding transit through ports. The report has also stressed on the viability of Irish sea freight operations to provide direct services to the continent. This in turn has been supported by a boost in investments to key ports to cope with increased Brexit-related administrative obligations, and to provide sea freight operators more options.

 

Free movement between UK and the EU to end on 31 December 2020

The UK’s new Immigration Act has been signed into law, which confirms that free movement for EU citizens will end on 31 December 2020. Under this Act, the UK’s new points-based immigration will be implemented, which has a number of skills, language, and education-based criteria under it.

Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now. However, EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their families living in the UK before 31 December 2020, can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK by the 30 June 2021 deadline.

 

Brexit Bites

  • NI Department of the Economy head, Minister Dodds urges UK government to protect access to GB for NI freight travelling via the Republic of Ireland
  • UK government publishes new guidance on passport rules for travel to Europe after 1 January 2021
  • Uncertainty around market access for services could severely impact the City of London, warns the EU

 

For all Brexit updates, visit our Brexit webpage.