Brexit 5: transition is on

Welcome to the transition! The first week of Britain outside the European Union is coming to an end.

PM Johnson is looking for a “Canada-style” free trade deal

In the week that was, Prime Minister Boris Johnson started Monday with a speech unveiling his vision for a trade deal with the EU, calling for a ‘Canada-style’ free trade deal or in other words, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). What is CETA? Check here for more.

If Boris Johnson is met by an unwavering EU opposition, he stated he will revert to the Withdrawal Agreement. This would mean reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms if the European Union refuses to sign off a Canada-style free trade agreement – essentially a no-deal.

EU publishes mandates for trade negotiations – the need of a level-playing field

On Monday, the European Commission released its suggested mandate for post-Brexit negotiations with the UK. According to Michel Barnier – who will remain in charge of negotiations for the Commission – the European Union is willing to negotiate an agreement that includes “zero tariffs and zero quota on all goods entering the single market”.

Brussels is also aiming for an ambitious agreement which covers “digital trade, intellectual property and access to our respective procurement markets”. In return, the UK would have to agree to a level-playing field over the long term, and to an agreement on fisheries. Commission President van der Leyen gave her support to the mandate, warning that “time is short and the road is long”.

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the Commission’s mandate in the week of 10th-13th February, and the Council of the EU will give its approval on 25th February.

UK plans legislation to retain trade deals from under the EU – for now

The British legislation implementing the existing EU trade deals that Britain has agreed to roll over, as well as measures to prevent dumping – more simply known as the Trade Bill – will be introduced to the UK Parliament in late February. Theresa May’s plans for a “trade remedies authority” to protect British industries against imports of goods made cheaply due to lower standards or state subsidies will be revived.

Britain takes its solo seat at the WTO in Geneva

In another emblematic moment this week, Britain has taken its solo seat at the WTO for the first time. Britain’s permanent representative to the WTO Julian Braithwaite has taken his place alongside US counterpart at the WTO offices in Geneva and will represent Britain – a now independent trading nation. This sets out the agenda as Britain “a champion of free trade setting out the renewed agenda”.

This week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab departed for trade talks heading to Australia for the UK’s first trade mission since departing the EU. Talks will start with Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Canberra followed by meeting business chiefs in New South Wales. This trip is followed by trade a talk tour through the Asia-Pacific region covering Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

Ireland snap elections

On Saturday, 8th February, Ireland goes to polls following the dissolution of the 32nd Dáil by the President, at the request of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on 14th January 2020. Since May 2016, Leo Varadkar is leading a minority government.

When calling for early-bird elections, Leo Varadkar hoped that his success in keeping the EU at Ireland’s side during Brexit talks will incentivise Irish citizens to vote for his party Fine Gael. But, latest polls show that Varadkar is facing quite strong opposition from Fianna Fail, and an unexpected surge in popularity for Sinn Fein.

Apparently, the main issues that might got him off the political throne are domestic ones (and not how Ireland is seen in the world) such as housing and health that apparently were ignored by his government and became extremely salient to the electorate.