Third round of Brexit negotiations ends, no real progress reported

May 18, 2020

The third round of Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK government concluded on Friday 15 May 2020. The negotiations began on Monday 11 May and lasted for the whole week. The full agenda of the negotiations can be found on the European Commission’s website. The parties discussed issues in areas such as trade in goods, transport, and the UK's participation in future programmes of the Union, however no real progress has been reported and the negotiations have said to have reached an ‘impasse’.

As per chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s concluding press statement, there was no real progress on topics such as a single governance framework, fisheries or level playing field provisions. To further make matters difficult, both sides insist progress can only be made if the other side gives up its core demands. While Mr. Barnier urged the UK “to change its strategy”, UK’s chief negotiator David Frost has stated, “we very much need a change in EU approach”. Even though both sides agreed on a divorce package last year that allowed the UK to continue to trade with the EU, the two sides remain at an impasse on various issues. Mr. Barnier has yet again reiterated the EU stance, that “this is not an opportunity for the UK to “pick and choose” the most attractive elements of the EU Single Market”, which has been countered by Mr. Frost’s statement stating the EU position as “a major obstacle…on a reaching a mutually beneficial agreement”.

Further highlighting the disagreement, Irish Tánaiste Simon Coveney has also said that a no-deal Brexit is now a real risk because the UK is looking for something different to what was committed in the Political Declaration. Meanwhile, UK cabinet minister Michael Gove has said there was a post-Brexit trade deal to be done with the EU, providing the bloc agreed to compromise.

Both sides are due to decide by the end of June whether the current deadline for negotiating an agreement should be extended beyond the end of December. The fourth round of negotiations is scheduled for 1 June 2020. The UK government has also said that it intends to make public all of its draft legal texts next week. The Brexit timetable now looks more difficult than ever.