Brexit: Latest updates about the UK leaving the EU

The UK government has said talks with the EU on reaching a post-Brexit trade deal have reached a "critical stage".

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020. If it feels like little has changed, that is because both sides agreed many things would stay the same for 11 months, to allow leaders time to agree a deal for life after Brexit.

Time runs out on 31 December, but things are far from settled. The two sides are still arguing about fishing rights and business competition rules.

The three main sticking points are:

  • The EU is worried the UK could give financial help to its own firms, or find other ways to give them an unfair advantage
  • Both sides are concerned about who will be allowed to fish in UK waters
  • They need to decide how any agreement they reach will be enforced

If a deal is not reached and ratified by 31 December, the UK and EU could introduce import charges on each other's goods.

The EU is warning that, without ongoing access to UK waters for its fleets, UK fishermen will no longer have special access to EU markets to sell their goods. But the UK argues that what goes on in its own waters should be under its control as a sovereign country.

If there is no trade deal, it could mean higher prices in UK shops. There could also be delays as lorries bringing products in would need even more border checks.

Brexit supporters say leaving the EU will give the UK more freedom to strike trade deals around the world.

When the UK was in the EU, it was automatically part of EU trade deals with more than 70 countries.

Since leaving, it has made deals with more than 50 of those countries, to continue trading in the same way. It is unlikely the UK will manage to do deals with all of the others before the end of the year. It is also in talks with countries such as the US and Australia with which the EU does not have free trade deals, but none of these trade deals has yet been reached.

The UK prime minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen spoke on the telephone on Monday evening (7 December), and agreed to ask their chief negotiators to prepare an overview of the “remaining differences”. The leaders will then discuss them in person in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days.

Posted on Dec 08, 2020.

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