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Just four months to go until UK faces a hard No Deal Brexit

August 21, 2020 6:00 PM

They said a Trade Deal with the EU was going to be Easy!

"To me, Brexit's easy", Nigel Farage

EU Protecting Nature"There is no plan for no deal, because we're going to get a great deal". Boris Johnson.

"We hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want."We can easily conclude a new settlement with EU in that period", Michael Gove

"Be under no doubt: we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly", David Davies

"the free trade agreement that we will have to come to with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history", Liam Fox.

"I'm not in the least bit worried about chlorinated chicken", Jacob Rees Mogg

"It will be easy to negotiate a trade deal" Paul Nuttall UKIP

"trade relations with the EU could be sorted out "in an afternoon over a cup of coffee", Gerard Batten UKIP

Well, hope for a free trade deal for East Anglia's agriculture and fishing industries appear to be diminishing by the day as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said today after the seventh round of talks, "The chances of an EU-UK post-Brexit trade deal "seems unlikely". Michel Barnier said he was "disappointed" and "concerned".

His UK counterpart David Frost spoke of "little progress", amid differences on fisheries policy and state aid rules. Mr Frost is reported by the BBC as saying that the EU had made it "unnecessarily difficult" to make progress by insisting that differences over state aid and fisheries have to be resolved before "substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts".

The UK argues there should be a series of separate agreements, including a basic free trade deal. But the EU wants one comprehensive deal covering all aspects of the future relationship, not just trade and sees that as another example of the UK trying to cherry-pick the benefits it wants, while avoiding the obligations of EU membership. The EU has been insistent there should be level-playing field for workers' rights, environmental protection, taxation and state aid. The next round of talks is due to begin on 7 September in London.

Heading for WTO Rules

The transition period ends on 31 December and, if a deal has not been secured by then, the UK would have to trade with the EU on WTO (World Trade Organization) terms.

This means most UK goods would be subject to tariffs until any free trade deal was ready to be brought in.

The UK has said it will not extend talks if an agreement cannot be reached by the December deadline.

If those negotiations were to run out of time, the UK would leave the transition period with no trade deal in place and trade with the EU would automatically fall back on basic World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Which are?

Every WTO member has a list of tariffs (taxes on imports of goods) and quotas (limits on the number of goods) that they apply to other countries with which they don't have a deal.

The average EU tariff is pretty low (about 2.8% for non-agricultural products) - but, in some sectors, tariffs can be quite high. Under WTO rules, cars would be taxed at 10% when they crossed the UK-EU border after the end of the transition period. Especially concerning for East Anglia's farmers, agricultural tariffs would be even higher, rising to an average of more than 35% for dairy products.

Fishing rights is one of the areas where significant differences remain and on the subject of access to UK and EU fishing waters, there had been "no progress whatsoever".

Taking back control of UK fishing waters was a key issue for many Brexit supporters. Fishing boat

BBC research has revealed that foreign companies own the rights to catch more than 130,000 tonnes of fish every year that are part of England's fishing quota. With fishing still an obstacle in the UK's trade talks with the European Union, the figures raise questions about what taking back control will actually mean.

More than £160m worth of the English quota is in the hands of vessels owned by companies based in Iceland, Spain and the Netherlands, thanks to a practice known as "quota-hopping".

The UK government says becoming an independent coastal state after Brexit will give it the right to decide "who fishes in our waters and on what terms".

But, as this BBC research confirms, a significant portion of the existing UK quota is already in foreign hands. Dutch owners of the Frank Bonefaas super-trawler own a fifth of England's fishing quota

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own quotas, each with different degrees of foreign ownership.

Under plans outlined in the UK Fisheries Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, the government does not intend to return the foreign-owned quota to UK fishermen.

It has said only that it is "reviewing…with a view to strengthening the rules" surrounding foreign ownership of UK-flagged boats.

Current rules say even if vessels are 100% foreign-owned, they must have an "economic link" to the UK. That means they must meet one of five conditions, which include landing more than half their catch at UK ports or having majority British crews.

Meanwhile regardless of potential tariffs:

British producers may not be able to export processed meat to Europe after Brexit unless they get a specific European Union health certificate

Reuters London report that the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) have said. When the Brexit transition period ends, Britain will lose access to the EU's free-trade area, meaning that animal products from Britain will need specific paperwork and border checks. The new rules would apply to British products sent to EU countries and Northern Ireland, which will still be part of the EU's trading bloc. Rural Farming ()

UK meat processing is a 8.2 billion-pound industry, which does 75-90% of its trade with EU countries, the BMPA said.

"At the moment, people forget this - we don't 'export' anything to Europe, we just send stuff ... At the moment you just put it in a van and send it," said BMPA Chief Executive Rick Allen.

The BMPA say that the specific EU health certificate that will be required for processed meat products including sausages and burgers does not exist yet and they are worried that the government has not made enough progress in negotiating the new arrangements. They're very quick to actually say to businesses: you need to get yourself ready because we're not going to have this special arrangement with Europe,"the BMPA spokesperson is reported as saying.

DEFRA reportedly said: "Businesses are currently able to export sausages and trade on the same terms across all sectors to the EU during the transition period. Future trade arrangements beyond the end of the year will be agreed as part of negotiations on our future economic partnership with Europe."

Progress reports from Round 7 of the UK/EU talks hardly inspire confidence in the outcome and the pro-Brexit claims to acheive 'the easiest trade agreement in human history'.

Sources:

Brexit trade deal: Who really owns UK fishing quotas?

By Oliver Barnes & Chris Morris

BBC Reality Check.

LONDON (Reuters)

EU red tape strangling UK sausage prospects, say producers

edited by Stephen Addison