(Title Image: Cambridge University)
UK Government doesn’t seek an extension to Brexit transition period
The UK Government decided not to extend the Brexit transition period to beyond 31st December 2020 as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest round of negotiations on a longer-term agreement with the EU took place virtually during July 2020. As a result, a public information campaign started to let the public and businesses know that completion of Brexit was imminent and, as of yet, set to be a reversion to World Trade Organisation rules or a “Hard Brexit”.
The next round of meetings is due to take place in September 2020.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to be shut out of post-Brexit trade negotiations
The UK Government has reneged on assurances that the devolved nations would have a say in post-Brexit trade negotiations by stating the devolved government’s views would only be taken into account “when we (UK Government) can”.
As recently as January 2020, Michael Gove MP said the devolved nations would “absolutely” have a say in shaping the UK’s negotiations. Instead, the UK has published a stance which implicitly suggests they’ll “go it alone”.
Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles (Lab, Neath) said: “The Welsh Government does not endorse the positions set out in the UK mandate. In taking their approach, the UK Government has missed the opportunity to build a strong united position across all governments of the UK. With a UK Government choosing not to listen to our legitimate concerns, they enter the negotiations next week alone.”
£7billion customs check red tape emerges as plans unveiled for “Farage Garage”
The UK Government has admitted that limited customs checks (for specific goods) will be required for traffic crossing the Irish Sea (including to/from Northern Ireland), while plans have been unveiled for a substantial lorry park and customs checkpoint for cross-Channel traffic at Ashford in Kent – which has been dubbed the “Farage Garage” and prompted local opposition.
There have been estimates that UK businesses will face up to £7billion of additional costs as a result of increased bureaucracy resulting from the ending of free trade with the EU, while an additional 50,000 customs agents may be required. Each customs declaration is expected to cost between £20-£55.
UK Government unveils post-Brexit points-based immigration system
In February 2020, the UK Government unveiled more detailed plans for a post-Brexit points-based immigration system which would come into effect in January 2021.
Prospective immigrants will be assigned points based on their job-related skills, English-speaking skills, sponsorship arrangements with an employer (if applicable) and salary. Immigrants will need to have 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa.
The minimum salary threshold was lowered to £20,480 for those with a PhD, but this will result in low-paid roles – such as hospitality and social care, which have traditionally been reliant on migrant labour – making someone ineligible to move permanently to the UK.
International students will still be eligible to study in the UK as long as they have proof of an offer, can speak English and have means to support themselves. Family reunion and asylum will be outside of the points-based system.
The UK “can’t have Canada-style free trade deal”
In February 2020, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the UK’s close physical and economic proximity to the EU will mean the UK can’t expect to have a free trade deal similar to that negotiated with Canada.
A Canadian-style free trade agreement was one option being pressed by supporters of a “Hard Brexit” following the 2016 referendum.
Michel Barnier said: “We remain ready to offer the UK an ambitious partnership: a trade agreement that includes in particular fishing, and includes a level playing field with a country that has a particular proximity – a unique territorial and economic closeness, which is why it can’t be compared to Canada or South Korea or Japan.”
The UK, however, said that it would undermine the point of the UK seeking to become “an independent country”.
UK to withdraw from European Arrest Warrant
The UK Government has confirmed that it will withdraw from the European Arrest Warrant system, which enables criminal suspects to be extradited between member states .
Senior members of the National Crime Agency called for the system to be maintained or it could undermine attempts to deal with cross-border crime and prevent the UK from becoming a haven for EU criminals. However, it was argued that retaining the arrest warrant system would mean being subject to the European Court of Justice.