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EU-UK Trade talks took positive turn but still uncertain if a deal is within reach

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

On the 8th December, in a joint statement, the co-chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee – European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove, announced that they had reached an agreement, in principle, on all issues related to the Withdrawal Agreement implementation, ensuring is fully operational from 1st January 2021, including the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Commenting on the agreement in principle of the EU-UK Joint Committee to ensure the Northern Ireland protocol is fully operational as of January 1st 2021, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:

"More detail on how to keep trade flowing smoothly in both directions between GB and NI and on both sides of the Irish Sea after the 1st of January, whatever the outcome of negotiations, is a belated but necessary step forward in providing clarity for our business communities. The devil however will be in the detail on how this operates for firms on the ground.

“This agreement must swiftly be converted into crystal-clear guidance and operating protocols so that businesses can act on it - as they have incredibly little time to prepare for the significant changes that lie ahead."

Commenting further on the agreement of a trusted trader scheme that would mean exemptions from tariffs for up to 98pc of goods flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from January 1, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Ann McGregor said:

“The announcement today that the EU and UK have agreed a trusted trader scheme that would mean exemptions from tariffs for up to 98pc of goods flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from January 1, as well as a grace period for export health certificates and no exit summary declarations, appears positive at first glance.

“However, the devil is in the detail and NI Chamber is very concerned about business capacity to analyse, absorb and implement actions required as details as emerge. We still have concerns about flow v compliance, the lack of a HMRC helpline to address queries as they emerge, the possible loss of access to affordable food for the Northern Ireland consumer and the fact that services have not been mentioned.”

On the 10th December, the President of the EU, Ursula von der Leyen, confirmed that whilst negotiations are still ongoing, the fact is the end of the transition period is now upon us, and there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement is found, it will enter in force on time; and thus the EU is also preparing for the even of no-deal introducing some contingency measures. Read full Press Release on the proposed targeted contingency measures here

Today 13th December, President von der Leyen, made a public statement saying that after a constructive phone call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiations will continue in Brussels today.

We continue to monitor developments and any outcome of current discussions will be posted on our hub.

Sources: British Chambers of Commerce, European Commission

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