Peter North, 08/10/2020  
 


Talks on the key obstacle to a Brexit agreement are “only just beginning”, the UK’s chief negotiator says – warning the two sides are “some way from a deal” says The Independent.

David Frost revealed a new UK offer to limit future state aid, put forward last week, is “not an extensive text” and that “details” will not be produced until next year. “We are some way from a deal at the moment, if I'm honest,” he told a Lords inquiry.

Speaking to the Lords EU committee, Lord Frost accepted the UK had to deliver a regime “compatible” with the EU’s – even after Brussels dropped its demand for “dynamic alignment” with its own.

“We are only just beginning a discussion about [if] is it possible to go further than you normally do in a free trade agreement,” he acknowledged. The debate was about “high level principles”,” he said, adding: “I don't think we are thinking in terms of extensive text, setting out the detail of how we design our system. “That will be for the consultation that will come later this year, or early next, and the legislative process.”

On the face of it, it doesn't look like the UK is in any great hurry to find agreement with the EU. Frost is talking about "high level principles" while the EU wants and needs details if it is to agree to anything. You could be forgiven for thinking there is no serious attempt to negotiate.

However, Frost also hinted at attempts to reach a fudge to avoid the worst impacts of a no-deal – even if a full deal proves impossible – saying there would be “lots of practical matters that we would need to cover”. Whether or not it has sunk in that those much vaunted "mini deals" are a non-starter, and that an FTA in no way resolves our customs woes, remains to be seen. Michael Gove seems to be preemptively blaming the haulage industry.

Reading other reports, we see that it's all much the same tedious soap opera we've had for weeks and months to the point where the mere suggestion of blogging it now brings on bouts of PTSD akin with Vietnam flashbacks. Since the whole thing is irretrievably wrecked either way I just wish they would do us the courtesy of ending it.

The real Brexit story of the day though, is the belated discovery that thousands of sheep farmers may go out of business if tariffs are imposed. Estimates by the Country Land and Business Association show that if exports remain around the same level as last year, but tariffs are imposed, about 3 million lamb carcasses normally destined for export to the EU would not find a market there.

Some unsold lambs, they say, would return to the UK market, where they would depress prices and leave thousands of farmers facing hardship and potentially going out of business. Even if UK lamb consumption increased, and as many unsold carcasses as possible were put in cold storage, the CLA estimates that up to 2 million could go to waste.

This, however, could still be the case with or without a deal, as we have warned from very early on. When faced with onerous official controls at Calais, with the addition of unwelcome competition from down under or across the pond, the UK livestock industry is looking at a disaster.

So much of this was predictable and predicted, and this should come as no surprise - except perhaps to Johnson and his fellow maladministrators. It may actually be worth it just to see Welsh sheep farmers descend on Whitehall to crucify him. One suspects, though, they'll have to join a very long queue.  


Also posted on Turbulent Times







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