Brexit: A September Skinny Deal

Published on July 29, 2020

Michel Barnier, head of the European Commission task force on Brexit, made headlines last Friday with leaks that he had told European Union ambassadors at a closed-door meeting that his UK counterparts had lowered their sights now to simply seeking a “low quality, low profile” agreement with the EU.

** Derisive comments aside, the substantive point of Barnier’s brief to the EU ambassadors was that the UK negotiating team had given a clear indication from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that they wanted to wrap a deal up as soon as possible, a message that Barnier took to mean Johnson had little interest in adding the economic turmoil of a no-deal Brexit to his existing COVID problems.

** As to specifics, our understanding is that negotiations at this juncture are focused mainly on the treatment of industrial goods, with “all the rest” – from security to transport – to be hammered out over years of further negotiations that would be built on top of this very basic agreement.

** As to timing, one EU ambassador expressed optimism that “we will get a [modest] deal this year, most certainly.” More to the point, Barnier is said to have reported that he believed a deal could come in September.

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