Brexit 5: Brexit talks return, as we move to the ‘new normal’

EU trade deal apparently not the ‘easiest in history’ to get

It wasn’t all that long ago when the former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP claimed agreeing a trade deal with the EU would be the ‘easiest in history’ to get. Fast forward a couple of years and what we now know is that the UK and EU are said to have “serious differences” and a “lack of respect” remains between parties, as they look to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal. The UK and EU have long held their red lines on trading areas such as fishing and matters such as labour law, environmental standards, and state aid policies. The coming months show no signs of this convergence in views, so whatever negotiating point we reach at the end of the transition period Is merely the end of the beginning.


COVID-19 vaccine plan negotiations move forward

Despite these evident trade hurdles, the UK has launched negotiations with the EU on whether it will join a plan by the bloc to secure supplies of potential vaccines against COVID-19. These negotiations represent a test of the cooperation required to tackle international emergencies after Brexit, and after news coming out this week that the United States have agreed to buy nearly all the next three months’ projected production of COVID-19 treatment remdesivir from US manufacturer Gilead, it is important that the British government weigh up whether utilising the European Union’s ability to strike deals with international drug companies, as a result of their bargaining power, outweighs the desire they have to negotiate trade deals on their own.


Building business confidence must be a priority

A growing number of British businesses are increasingly worried that the government’s planned system to check goods heading to the European Union won’t be ready in time for when the Brexit transition period ends on the 1st of January 2021. According to an investigation, carried out by the news outlet Business Insider, leading UK business groups have explained that the government has failed to confirm to them how the system will work and whether it will be fully functional in time. Clarity is always important for business, particularly now given the uncertainty that has loomed over business since the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March this year. Business must continue to engage on this matter, and ensure they are given clarity as the date approaches.


Government’s openness to Hongkongers offers beacon of hope

Throughout the Brexit debate, the Conservative Party have taken a strong line on immigration, with the Home Secretary Priti Patel MP outlining that British Government’s ‘new’ points-based system will replace the free movement of citizens experienced under EU membership. Despite the sensitivities surrounding the immigration debate, the UK’s commitment to Hongkongers, unique given its historic ties to the city and as the only other signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, has not faltered. The UK has committed to extending immigration rights for up to 350,000 British National Overseas (BN(O)) passport holders, rising to three million Hong Kong residents. This decision makes it clear that despite pressures to restrict immigration into the UK, the government will take the stance which is morally correct.


Independence of the civil service faces questions

On Monday this week, the UK’s top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill – a key ally of former Prime Minister Theresa May – has resigned from his three-pronged role as cabinet secretary, national security adviser and head of the civil service. The search for a new cabinet secretary will begin next month. But Boris Johnson has already said the new national security adviser will be David Frost, who is currently the government’s chief Brexit negotiator with the EU. This appointment received cross-party criticism, with Labour leading the outcry against his appointment. And you can understand why. It is “highly unusual” for an experienced, outgoing national security advisor, to be replaced by a political appointee with little direct experience for the role. In times of heightened risk to this country, you hope the government have thought this decision through fully.


The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at