The seventh full round of negotiations concluded on Friday 21 August, with limited progress reported by both sides. Further briefing over the weekend highlighted an increase chance of no deal but talks continue this week, with the next full round of negotiations taking place in September:

The document below includes:


Nobody expected significant progress to be made during Round Seven of negotiations. However, the tone with which UK and EU negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier summarised the latest round was more negative than expected. Frost argued that a deal would “not be easy to achieve” and Barnier said it felt like talks were “going backwards”. Reports over the weekend echoed this pessimism, particularly from the EU.

State aid rules, fisheries and governance remain key points of contention, with the EU frustrated by a lack of meaningful concessions, and the UK frustrated by an inability to progress other areas of negotiations, including the draft legal text of a free trade agreement (FTA) reportedly tabled by the UK earlier this week (see here). The EU reportedly rejected the draft FTA saying it advanced only the UK’s offensive interests. Some analysts are more optimistic than others, with The Times’ Bruno Waterfield describing the weekend’s theatrics as part of the “process”. He points out that a paper is due to be published on UK subsidies in the coming month which could help unlock talks, and that fisheries will only be resolved once member state leaders engage with negotiations. Tim Shipman memorably reports the new Whitehall joke that Brussels ‘wants to have our hake and eat it’. It is also worth recognising reported progress on technical issue such as energy cooperation.

Nevertheless, some  fundamental  issues  will  not  be resolved at  negotiator  level,  but will  require  high-level political  input at  a future ‘crunch’  summit.

Negotiators are therefore mapping out what a landing zone could look like (if there is one at all). The EU appears to believe that in the face of the pressures of Covid-19, Boris Johnson will eventually move towards its position on the level playing field in order to unlock a trade deal. However, the feeling amongst Conservative Brexiteers is increasingly that what little is on offer from the EU is not worth the price of commitments on the level playing field and fisheries access. Some are even publicly repudiating the Withdrawal Agreement. However, it’s also an article of faith for the EU that it will not allow access to its market to the UK without commitments on the level playing field. The chances of the two sides could simply fail to come to an accommodation – and an acrimonious blame game – remains real.

UK Negotiator David Frost maintains that a deal is possible and negotiations now continue into September. Progress is reliant on concessions and good will on the most difficult issues from both sides. While this is possible – even probable – as time pressures increase and member state governments turn their attention to the talks, the most recent round of negotiations shows that there is still some distance to go. There will almost certainly be some form of breakdown in the weeks ahead.

Cicero/AMO’s reasonable working assumption remains that the UK and EU agree a ‘stripped-back’ deal on essential issues by the end of the year, but talks on a more substantive future free trade agreement could continue beyond 2020.

See the respective official statements from the various negotiating rounds below:

Negotiating round UK EU
Round Two: 20-24 April 2020 ·        No.10 blog

·        Statement from David Frost

·        Written Ministerial Statement by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove

·        Statement from Michel Barnier
Round Three: 11-15 May 2020 ·        Statement from David Frost

·        Written Ministerial Statement from Michael Gove

·        Statement from Michel Barnier
Round Four: 1-5 June 2020 ·        Statement from David Frost

·        Written Ministerial Statement from Michael Gove

·        Statement on the second meeting of the Joint Committee from Michael Gove

·        Statement from Michel Barnier
High level meeting: 15 June 2020 (Round Five) ·        EU-UK joint statement

·        Statement to Parliament from Michael Gove

Negotiations: 29 June – 2 July 2020 ·        Statement from David Frost ·        Statement from Michel Barnier

·        Statement on financial services from Michel Barnier

Round Six: 20 – 23 July 2020 ·        Statement from No.10 ·        Statement from Michel Barnier
Round Seven: 17 – 21 August 2020 ·        Statement from David Frost ·        Statement from Michel Barnier

Key issues

The table below summarises the negotiations by comparing what both the UK and EU officially said on several core issues, and notes a ‘direction of travel’ from the previous round using the below key:






Direction of travel

Overview Both the UK and EU broadly support the development of a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA).


However, while the UK wants this to be supplemented                                              with additional agreements on issues such as fisheries, aviation, energy  and security, the EU favours a single broad agreement covering governance, the economic   partnership,   and

security      co-operation      –

“Agreement is still possible, and it is still our goal, but it is clear that it will not be easy to achieve.”


“We are seeking a relationship which ensures we regain sovereign control of our own laws, borders, and waters, and centred upon a trading relationship based on an FTA like those the EU has concluded with a range of other international partners”.


David Frost, August 2020

“Too often this week, it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards. Today, at this stage, an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union seems unlikely.”


“Apart from the question of a Level Playing Field, there are still many other areas where progress is needed.”


Michel Barnier, August 2020

Negative; Despite signs of concessions in July, the language used to describe the prospect of a deal was far more pessimistic this month. Barnier reiterated that a deal was currently “unlikely” and that it felt like discussions were “going backwards”. Similarly, Frost said it would “not be easy” to achieve an agreement.


essentially an ‘association agreement’.


There             are                       further disagreements on the nature of the agreement, with the EU looking to secure strict commitments to fair competition, reflecting the UK’s proximity and status as a former member. More detail on level playing field and governance concerns

can be found below.

Progress Both the UK and EU have been publicly pessimistic regarding the level of progress made during negotiations. “We have had useful discussions this week but there has been little progress.”


David Frost, August 2020

“Too often this week, it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards.”


“I should add that, in some of the ten tables that convened this week, we were able to make progress on technical issues.”


Michel Barnier, August 2020

No development: Though progress was made across a number of technical issues, including energy cooperation and anti-money laundering, both sides reiterated that little progress had been made across key issues. The UK also expressed frustration this continued to hamper discussions across other areas.
Level              Playing Field (LPF) Significant                                  differences remain on what LPF conditions should be included in any future agreement. “The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid.”


David Frost, August 2020

“The need for a Level Playing Field is not going to go away. Even if the UK continues to insist on a low-quality agreement on goods  and  services  only.  It  is  a

non-negotiable   pre-condition  to

No development: Frost remains clear that the EU’s demands around LPF are the major sticking point in negotiations.  Further, the EU

has  strongly criticised  the UK


The UK is looking to include minimal requirements on LPF provisions, previously rejecting the need for legal commitments and arguing that the UK has higher standards than various EU member states. It  also argues that existing EU agreements with Canada and Japan do not include stringent LPF conditions.


The EU wants to ensure that future trade is ‘fair and competitive’, and has ongoing concerns over workers’ rights; state aid; taxation; and social and environmental protections. It favours dynamic alignment on certain issues – particularly state aid – and the continued supremacy of

European law.

grant access to our market of 450 million citizens, given the United Kingdom’s geographic proximity and the intensity of our economic exchanges.”


Michel Barnier, August 2020

for failing to “engage” in such discussions.                                Reports suggested the UK had proposed a new solution towards the end of June and though the last two rounds have provided little update, LPF is still thought to be the most significant sticking point (see here).


Frost said that “considerable gaps” remained, and Barnier reiterated the need for “robust guarantees”. Reports in the FT suggest the PM’s Adviser Dominic Cummings had led calls for a “minimal, light-touch regime” for state aid.

Governance The UK originally sought separate                                 governance arrangements for different agreements and sectors, whereas the EU wants a single                                 governance

framework to manage future relationships and disputes.

No comment in August negotiations.


“We have heard the EU’s concerns about a complex Switzerland-style set of agreements and we are ready       to       consider       simpler

structures,    provided   satisfactory

“Apart from the question of a Level Playing Field, there are still many other areas where progress is needed. For example: Governance, where we are still far from agreeing on the essential issue of dispute settlement.” No development: Following the fifth round of negotiations, the UK conceded that it was ready to consider       a                           “simpler structure”. However, Barnier highlighted that the two sides

remain   “far   from agreeing”


terms can be found for dispute settlement and governance.”


David Frost, July 2020

Michel Barnier, August 2020 on dispute settlement.
Fishing access A politically charged issue, fisheries have been at the forefront of the Brexit debate since well before the referendum campaign.


The UK is looking for any agreement to reflect its status as an independent coastal state, with annual negotiations on quotas and access.


The EU is looking to uphold existing reciprocal access arrangements, including periodic total allowable catches and reflecting “continued                                 responsible

fisheries’ in line with EU law.

“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts.”


David Frost, August 2020

“Apart from the question of a Level Playing Field, there are still many other areas where progress is needed. For example: Fisheries, where we have made no progress whatsoever on the issues that matter.”


Michel Barnier, August 2020

No development: Despite hints at progress on fisheries throughout May and June and suggestions of possible concessions from the EU, recent negotiations have highlighted the stark difference between the two sides. Alongside level playing field conditions, it remains a key sticking point.
Criminal cooperation There is an ambition from both sides to agree a mechanism to allow for continued criminal justice and policing cooperation.


The UK is seeking a framework similar to that

No comment in August negotiations. “We had good discussions on police and judicial cooperation, even if divergences remain.”


Michel Barnier, July 2020


“Apart  from  the  question  of  a

Level Playing Field, there are still

No development: The EU continues to take issue with “fundamental obstacles” to policy                       and                       judicial cooperation but recognises an overarching agreement with the UK. The UK has not

commented on such issues in


currently in place that allows for the sharing of real time data, however it is clear that the European Court of Justice should not be able to constrain the autonomy of the UK’s legal system.


The EU maintains that the UK’s status in this area will be limited by becoming a non-Schengen third country.

many other areas where progress is needed. For example: Law enforcement, where we still struggle to agree on the necessary guarantees to protect citizens’ fundamental rights and personal data.”


Michel Barnier, August 2020

official statements. Most recently, Barnier said discussions on judicial cooperation had been “good” but said they were struggling to agree on the necessary guarantees to protect citizens’ fundamental rights and personal data.
Northern Ireland At the end of the transition period, Northern Ireland will remain within the EU’s single market            for                         various agricultural                                                                                                    and manufacturing                                                  goods, whereas the rest of the UK will not. Subsequently, there is disagreement over the continued EU presence in Northern Ireland post-Brexit in order to conduct the required customs and regulatory checks, as well as the level of checks required. “We want to work with NI businesses and the executive to ensure new admin procedures are streamlined and efficient. The protocol puts legal obligations on both sides. We are committed to complying with ours, just as we expect the EU to comply with theirs.”


Cabinet Office Spokesperson, May 2020

“We remain concerned that the necessary measures will not be in place on 1 January.”


Michel Barnier, July 2020

No development: The UK’s publication of its approach to the Northern Ireland protocol at the beginning of the summer allayed EU concerns over withholding its end of the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to Northern Ireland. As such, it has not been the focus of official statements in recent weeks. That said, the EU has highlighted the need to discuss “technical details” further and expressed concern over the necessary measures being in place by the end of the transition


Priority sectors

Sector Summary Direction of travel
Financial services Despite being a fundamental issue for the UK given its strategic importance, the Government has long since dropped its ambitions for an ambitious bespoke deal. It is looking for an ‘enhanced’ equivalence regime, with regulatory cooperation that includes “appropriate consultation and structured processes for the withdrawal of equivalence findings.” The UK argues that this largely mirrors the existing deal agreed between the EU and Japan. However, the EU has maintained that the decision to grant equivalence will remain unilaterally with the Commission, as seen in existing trade deals. Negative: Technical equivalence assessments by both party’s regulators are ongoing despite a target to conclude such assessments by 30 June 2020.


A speech by Michel Barnier to EuroFi again rejected any kind of bespoke arrangement, saying the UK’s proposals limited the EU’s regulatory and decision-making autonomy.


Though a basic equivalence agreement is expected given the existing levels of alignment, such decisions can be overtly political, and reports suggest financial services could be ‘played off’ against other key issues, such as fishing access. See here.


Further, a communication from July 2020 suggested that equivalence will be granted to UK Central Counterparties but withheld across other articles, including those within MiFID and MiFIR. See here and here.


Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis said in August that the decision to award certain equivalence assessments could be delayed beyond 2020

given that the EU’s rules are currently in flux. See here.

Data The UK is looking to be granted ‘data adequacy’ by the European Commission, a status given to countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) with comparable levels of data protection to the EU. As with financial services, the EU will look to reserve the right to take unilateral equivalence decisions on such ‘data adequacy’ decisions, which will be incumbent on the UK providing

an ongoing commitment to high levels of personal data protection.

No development: The political declaration sets out an ambition to reach data adequacy decisions by the end of 2020. However, such decisions usually take far longer. The fastest adequacy assessment to date took place between the EU and Argentina at 18 months, and they have been known to take up to five years. Though the UK currently applies the

EU’s GDPR legislation, the EU has taken issue with how the


UK Government handles data in the past, including the ‘Snoopers Charter’ and the waiving of data protection rights under certain immigration controls. While the UK has committed to allowing the free flow of data regardless of whether a deal is secured, the EU said it would not reciprocate.


More recently, concerns have been raised over the impact of a US trade deal on cross-border data flows, and whether this would impact a potential adequacy agreement (see here).

Transport The two core transport issues in negotiations are aviation and road transport (haulage).


Aviation: The UK has proposed two separate agreements: a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA), and a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA). The EU is reticent to allow such a comprehensive agreement without commitments to level playing field conditions and continued ECJ oversight.


Haulage: The UK is looking to remove all quantitative restrictions from operators providing services to, from and through each other’s territories. The EU supports open market access but believes UK hauliers should not be granted the same level of rights and benefits by EU hauliers between and within member states.


The UK intends to pull out of all EU institutions across maritime  and rail, striking bilateral agreements with individual member states where appropriate.

No development: Discussions over haulage rights post-Brexit ended in disagreement last week after EU negotiators said the British request for continued access – reportedly asking for the ability to continue making pick-ups and drop offs both inside and between EU member states (cabotage) – was “unbalanced” and close to single market-like access. See here.


Both sides cited progress on transport issues during the sixth round of negotiations. While there was some progress at technical level on aviation traffic rights, disagreements remain on ownership and control of cross-border organisations. The EU is also maintaining its position that a deal on aviation must be included as part of the FTA and discussions continue over level playing field conditions, particularly regarding EU air space, environmental agreements and subsidy controls. On road transport, both sides clarified their positions and are in the process of discussing rights for UK and EU haulers to carry goods between the two jurisdictions.

Brexit legislation tracker

Bill Department Next Stage Overview
Environment Bill (30.01.2020) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Public Bill Committee report

– 29.09.2020

To make provision about targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment; to make provision for the Office for Environmental Protection; to make provision about waste and resource efficiency; to make provision about air quality; to make provision for the recall of products that fail to meet environmental standards; to make provision about water; to make provision about nature and biodiversity; to make provision for conservation covenants; to make provision about the

regulation of chemicals; and for connected purposes.

Agriculture Bill (16.01.2020) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Report Stage (House of Lords) – TBC Reform UK agriculture policy by replacing the current subsidy system, and support farmers and land managers to ensure a smooth and gradual transition away from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Immigration and Social Security Bill (05.03.2020) Home Office Committee Stage (House of Lords) – 07.09.2020 End free movement, and make EU citizens arriving after January 2021 subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EU citizens. Clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens once the free movement migration framework is repealed. Enable the Government to deliver future

changes to social security co-ordination policy.

Trade Bill (19.03.2020) Department for International Trade (DIT) Second Reading (House of Lords) – 08.09.2020 A Bill to make provision about the implementation of international trade agreements; to make provision establishing the Trade Remedies Authority and conferring functions on it; and to make provision about the collection

and disclosure of information relating to trade.

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