View from Brussels

Welcome to the View from Brussels which is a monthly blog by Edward Simpson, FLA Head of  Government Affairs, on developments from across The Channel.

22 October 2020

In my earlier blogs, I expressed pessimism over the chances of an agreement between Boris Johnson’s Government and the EU on a future relationship. It didn’t bode well as the Prime Minister’s 15 October cut-off for a deal came and went as so many other deadlines have done in the Brexit saga.

For once, it doesn’t feel like the end of the road. In recent weeks progress has been made, notably on state aid which was one of two long-standing dividing lines. Giving evidence to the House of Lords, David Frost, the lead UK negotiator, suggested the two sides were close to reaching a compromise under which subsidies would be allowed to address market failure, but not as a means to distort trade and investment.

This leaves fishing rights as the main stumbling block. Fishing represents just 0.1% of the UK economy, but the Government cannot be seen to sell out the many coastal towns where it is embedded in the community. For those with longer memories, it still rankles that the EU Common Fisheries Policy was rushed through without the UK having a veto – indeed during the referendum campaign Michael Gove explained that his early views on Europe were influenced by the fact that his father worked in the fishing industry.  

A vocal group in support of the industry exists in France, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and Belgium. In the latter, Flemish fishermen who derive half of their income from catches made in British waters, are threatening to invoke a 17th century promise from King Charles II that 50 boats from Bruges would have a perpetual right to fish there. The French too have cited medieval rights to trawl in British seas. There is a chance that this issue ends up in the courts. More likely is that quotas are phased out over time and that Norway’s arrangements with the EU become the template, though the UK is keen to avoid annual negotiations, so a multi-year approach may represent the optimal outcome.  

So where does this leave the prospects of agreeing future arrangements over the next ten weeks?

In a positive sign, yesterday the UK Government agreed with Brussels to “intensify” talks. Both parties will prepare legal texts that could form the basis of a deal. The UK may have to make concessions on its Internal Market Bill (which gives it powers to override the Northern Ireland Protocol) and accept the EU courts having a role to play in future dispute resolution. Whilst it is unrealistic to expect that a comprehensive trade deal will be signed off by the end of the year, there should be enough time to agree workable arrangements that allow a series of mini-negotiations on various topics to continue. This will include financial services which sits outside the framework of these negotiations, and which has been granted a lifeline with Commission agreement to an 18 month extension for more pressing aspects of the equivalence regime. It won’t be plain sailing of course – expect delays at UK and French ports – but there is the prospect of calmer waters. 

View from Brussels - September 2020

25 Sep 2020
Brussels is trying to forge an identity as a global leader on a number of important themes.
Read more

View from Brussels - August 2020

27 Aug 2020
In May I wrote that “the smart money would be on a ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of the year.” In the current circumstances, I see no reason to revise my forecast.
Read more

View from Brussels - July 2020

24 Jul 2020
Earlier this week EU leaders agreed a budget for 2021-2027, the first time the Multi-annual Financial Framework has excluded the UK.
Read more

View from Brussels - June 2020

24 Jun 2020
As governments and regulators across Europe consider how they use recovery from the Covid-19 as a force for progress, one of the central components will be the drive towards a greener economy.
Read more

View from Brussels - May 2020

28 May 2020
The deadline for the UK and Brussels to reach agreement on a future relationship is fast approaching.
Read more

View from Brussels - April 2020

30 Apr 2020
Just as countries around the globe have introduced measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, on 28 April the European Commission announced a banking package to facilitate lending to households and businesses in the EU.
Read more

View from Brussels - March 2020

31 Mar 2020
Just as the UK Government has put in place measures to mitigate the fallout of the coronavirus on businesses and households so this has been the case on the other side of the English Channel.
Read more

View from Brussels - February 2020

26 Feb 2020
Earlier this month, colleagues and I visited Brussels to better understand the lie of the land post-Brexit.
Read more

View from Brussels - January 2020

28 Jan 2020
As we enter the last few days before the UK leaves the EU, talk has turned to what the future relationship holds.
Read more

Inaugural version of a ‘View from Brussels’.

17 Dec 2019
Welcome to the inaugural version of a ‘View from Brussels’.
Read more

Become a member

What are the benefits of becoming an FLA Member?