Brexit talks enter another week of high drama

Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU are at yet another moment of high drama, as the clock ticks down to full withdrawal from the bloc. Here we look at the unfolding situation.

– Hasn’t the UK already left the EU?

The UK formally withdrew in January, but said it would abide by EU rules in a transition period until the end of the year, as a hoped-for trade deal was sorted out.

– What’s happening now?

Negotiations have made slow progress and, at times, proved acrimonious, with both sides sniping at the attitude of the other.

– What are the main sticking points?

Trading relations between Britain and Northern Ireland are a major issue, along with areas such as fishing rights, state subsidies and the rights of citizens.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove

– What happens now?

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is in Brussels on Monday for talks with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic. On Tuesday the ninth round of negotiations between London and Brussels begins.

– What will they discuss?

The Withdrawal Agreement is likely to loom large, as Brussels reacted strongly to controversial provisions in legislation announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson overriding elements of the Brexit divorce deal referring to trade within the UK between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Sefcovic, who co-chairs the EU-UK joint committee, called for the move to be dropped by the end of September, or the UK would face legal action for breaking international law.

– Has the Johnson Government backed down?

No. The controversial UK Internal Market Bill, which contains the measures, returns to the Commons on Tuesday, despite heavy criticism from former prime ministers Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Sir John Major.

EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic
EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic

The Government admission that such action would breach international law has seen major disquiet on Tory benches, and a Government move to allow MPs a say on whether the measures would be implemented at a later stage may not be enough to stop some voting against it or abstaining.

– When will crunch time arrive on the Brexit talks?

Both sides have said that a deal would need to be struck by mid-October in order to have time to be ratified before the end of the year.

An EU summit on October 15 is likely to be significant.