Coronavirus and the Brexit transition period

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, Jonathan Lis writes that the UK should “keep talking about Brexit”. Lis argues that the December 2020 deadline to the end of the transition period was already “impossibly tight” before the pandemic. Now, with both the UK and the EU focusing their efforts on minimising the impact of coronavirus, Lis states that there is little chance of both sides reaching a deal before the end of the year. Consequently, Lis says the UK “must accept the inevitable” and request an extension to the transition period.

Lis warns that if an extension is not agreed to, the risk to supply chains—already affected by coronavirus—increases. He states that the UK is currently headed for no deal, which will “cause disruption on a vast scale” as goods will need to have regulatory and customs checks at borders with the EU. He also criticises the Government’s approach to Brexit, arguing that in the current pandemic the lines between left and right are blurring, but that this is still not the case in decisions about Brexit. The article concludes by listing lessons he believes the Government can learn from the pandemic and bring to Brexit. These are:

  • prioritise lives and livelihoods;
  • listen to experts;
  • ditch ideology; and
  • reassess an approach when new evidence comes to light.

Read the full article: Jonathan Lis, ‘We still need to talk about Brexit’, Prospect, 20 March 2020.

Read the House of Lords library blogs on coronavirus and the Brexit transition period.

The future relationship

Also looking to the December 2020 deadline, Marley Morris focuses on the need for the UK and the EU to agree the parameters of their future relationship. Morris sets out the two parties’ overall goals going into discussions; both sides want a free trade agreement that has no tariffs or quotas on traded goods. In return, he states that the EU expect a ‘level playing field’, to stop the UK from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over the EU. The IPPR suggests that this view causes friction with the UK Government, who believe any future relationship cannot require the UK to continue to follow rules set by the EU or judgements from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The IPPR identify four main areas of policy that the two sides have agreed to negotiate level playing field commitments. These are: state aid and competition policy; environment and climate change; labour and social services; and taxation. The briefing goes through each area in turn. It believes there is a low level of scope for compromise in the area of competition and state aid, a medium level for taxation and medium to high scope for the remaining two areas. The briefing concludes that the level playing field issue will be a “point of significant tension in the coming months”.

Read the full article: Marley Morris, Negotiating the Level Playing Field, Institute for Public Policy Research, 5 March 2020.