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  • Ansh Gandhi, AIT

What is happening with Brexit talks?

The United Kingdom (U.K.) officially left the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020. Establishing the terms for the U.K.’s departure from the EU is a withdrawal agreement entered into force on February 1, 2020. This withdrawal agreement allows the UK to leave the EU as smoothly as possible without discussing the terms of their future relationship. The current agreement covers the U.K.’s financial settlement with the EU, the protection along the Irish border, and its agreement to a transition period.

Planned as an attempt to give both sides additional time to negotiate terms, this transition period ends on December 31, 2020. During this time period, the U.K. has continued to follow the EU’s rules and to pay into the EU budget. If there is no trade deal brokered between the two groups by the end of the year, the U.K. will automatically drop out of the EU’s main trading agreements. Under these current trading agreements, members of the EU share the same rules on product standards and access to goods and services. Members of the EU also refrain from imposing tariffs on each other’s goods.

So what is preventing these sides from reaching a deal?

One of the main issues is that the EU wants to ensure that companies in the U.K. will not undercut their other European competitors. The United Kingdom refuses to commit to clauses that would prevent it from diluting its existing competition rules.

Additionally, there are disagreements on both sides about protection along the Irish border ― Ireland and Northern Ireland, a part of Great Britain, share a fractious history, and Ireland remains a member of the E.U. ― and about the trade agreement. If a new trade agreement is not reached by the end of the transition period, then exports from the U.K. will be subject to tariffs, quotas, and full border checks. These regulations will, subsequently, make goods and services more expensive.

Without a new agreement, Britain will also be forced to leave the larger European order without cooperation agreements in transportation, security or law enforcement.

It remains to be seen if these two groups will be able to reach a deal. However, the outcome could have a huge impact on the future of the EU and for its relationship with the U.K.

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