Brexit Update – Second Milestone passed

Brexit Update – Second Milestone passed

Brexit Update - Critical date of 30th June has passed.

The second of the landmark dates in the ongoing Brexit process has been passed. On the 31st January 2020, the United Kingdom triggered its exit from the European Union following over forty seven years of membership. As of the 1st February 2020 Britain ceased to be an EU member.

The United Kingdom now sits in a legal “transition period”. It no longer has any input into European affairs or decision making. For the period of 31st January 2020 to the 31st December 2020 it has the benefit of the existing cross border trading arrangements. The free travel area with Ireland is preserved for the time being. A central plank of the discussions to date was to ensure that Ireland maintains the free travel area, that no border is reinstated in the island of Ireland and that the Good Friday Agreement be preserved and respected. This commitment has been given by the UK government in its negotiations to date.

So what is the significance of the 30th June 2020?

The UK Government and the European Union have not yet concluded the negotiations for the treaty setting the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU. The Brexit negotiations have been ongoing since the appointment of Theresa May as prime minister and carried on following the election of Boris Johnson as leader of the Tory party. The re-election by a large majority of the Tory Conservative party in 2019 bolstered a more hardline approach to the negotiations by the UK Government. The original deal secured by Theresa May was resoundly and repeatedly rejected by the House of Commons.

A core element of the transition period given to the UK to facilitate proper negotiations and the conclusion and ratification of the exit treaty by all remaining member states, was the possibility for the UK to apply for an extension of time by a deadline date in the transition period. This deadline was the 30th June 2020 which has now passed.

As the UK government has not applied for an extension of time this means with or without a deal in place the United Kingdom will exit the transition phase on the 31st December 2020. Given the time lines of six months to finalise the terms of very complex trading arrangements built up over its forty seven year membership, followed by the referral and approval of this deal by twenty seven member states, the prospect of a “hard” or no-deal Brexit is once again a distinct possibility. The EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has already expressed doubt about the capacity for all parties to reach and conclude a treaty agreement by the deadline.