Chilly, with a touch of Frost: 22 May Brexit update

The relationship between Michel Barnier and David Frost is growing terser than ever, write Ros Taylor and Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz (LSE). Meanwhile, with unemployment rising rapidly, Britons are being encouraged to pick fruit and veg in exchange for the minimum wage and schooling for their children.

How are the talks going? Badly. Briefly: no deal looks likelier than ever.

Photo: Conal Gallagher via a CC BY-2.0 licence

James Forsyth offers this insight:

After Michel Barnier’s despairing announcement last Friday setting out how little progress had been made, both sides have dug in. Chief UK negotiator David Frost said the EU’s approach was ‘perplexing’ and wanted to know why it was “insisting on additional, unbalanced, and unprecedented provisions in a range of areas, as a precondition for agreement between us”. The documents setting out the UK’s aspirations reiterate that

Whatever happens, the Government will not negotiate any arrangement in which the UK does not have control of its own laws and political life. That means that we will not agree to any obligations for our laws to be aligned with the EU’s, or for the EU’s institutions, including the Court of Justice, to have any jurisdiction in the UK.

Barnier’s reply to Frost:

I share your commitment to helping the process move forward together. I do not think,
however, that an exchange of letters regarding the substance of the negotiations is
necessarily the best way to discuss on substantial points. It cannot be a substitute for
serious engagement and detailed negotiations and, in particular, I would not like the tone
that you have taken to impact the mutual trust and constructive attitude that is essential
between us.

‘The sense of urgency around these negotiations is increasing,’ says the BBC’s Chris Morris. However, Sam Lowe thought some progress had been made when the UK admitted that there would be new admin requirements for GB-NI trade. Meanwhile, the UK has launched its ‘Global Tariff‘ to replace the EU’s External Tariff, which scraps what it calls ‘nuisance tariffs’ of less than 2% and simplifies others. Tariffs on meat and cars remain, to protect British industry. Others, such as tampons, dishwashers, screwdrivers, ground thyme, mirrors and Christmas trees have been scrapped altogether.

The Bruges Group is pleased:

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