By Benjamin Fox
(EurActiv) — “Every day counts,” the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters as he re-started face-to-face negotiations with UK counterpart David Frost in London on Thursday (22 October).
The UK side agreed to resume talks after Barnier told MEPs that “compromises on both sides” were needed to conclude an EU-UK trade deal, in a speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
Barnier told reporters it was “important to be back at the table”, and that the two sides shared a “huge common responsibility”.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman also acknowledged that “time is now very short” for the two sides to reach a deal.
The talks will take place in London until Sunday. Further negotiations should take place in person in London and Brussels,
“Talks will take place across all negotiating tables concurrently,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Despite the breakthrough and resumption of talks, which will now be based on legal texts, the two sides only have several more weeks in order to conclude an agreement in time for it to be ratified before the end of the year. Failure to broker an agreement will result in EU-UK trade being conducted on World Trade Organisation terms.
Last week’s EU summit had long been billed as the deadline to finalise an agreement but officials now give mid-November as the latest deadline for agreeing a deal and allowing enough time for it to be ratified by the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament.
“We have been repeatedly clear that any agreement needs to be in place before the end of the transition period,” said Johnson’s spokesman, who added that “it is obviously for the EU to determine the length of time it needs for ratification.”
Meanwhile, the UK government on Thursday unveiled new measures to minimise the risk of disruption at the UK border at the end of the transition period, as part of its planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario.
Laws to enable the enforcement of Operation Brock – the traffic management strategy in Kent – has been brought forward under the ‘time is running out’ campaign launched early this week, which encourages businesses to ‘act now’ for guaranteed changes at the end of the year.
The new rules confirm that it will be mandatory for all Heavy Goods Vehicles using the Short Strait channel crossings to obtain a digital Kent Access Permit, and reduce the risk of disruption as hauliers travel through Kent to reach the Short Straits – one of Britain’s busiest trade routes.