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Deputy minister: British government steps could bring new dynamic to Brexit

Matti Maasikas.
Matti Maasikas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The decision of the government of the United Kingdom on Friday to apply for a UK-EU free trade area for goods may bring "a new dynamic" to the talks, but the resignation of British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis should not hinder the negotiations, Deputy Minister for EU Affairs and the Estonian government's Brexit coordinator, Matti Maasikas said.

"The decision of the British government made at Chequers on Friday may bring a new dynamic to the negotiations. The British government's white paper promised for this week will definitely require closer analysis, which we will especially expect from the team of the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier," Maasikas told the Baltic News Service on Monday, emphasising that the main focus needs to remain on keeping up the unity of the EU's internal market.

According to the proposals agreed upon by the British government on Friday, the United Kingdom and the EU ahead of Brexit would maintain "a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products," and London would commit to "ongoing harmonization" with EU rules on goods to ensure frictionless trade at ports and the border with Ireland.

According to Prime Minister Theresa May, the ministers also agreed on a "business-friendly customs model" to maintain high standards, but at the same time also allow Britain "to strike new trade deals around the world" once it has left the European Union next March.

The prospective free trade area and a new customs agreement "would prevent hitches on the border of the parties and ensure that both parties fulfill their responsibilities to Northern Ireland and Ireland," the document states. The same paper also indicates that the UK will leave the EU's joint agricultural and fisheries policy.

The proposals mean that the British government is hoping to partly continue in the EU single market, and to some extent accept the jurisdiction of EU courts. This is a point that supporters in the British government of the so-called hard Brexit and the ruling Conservative Party had previously ruled out.

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis, not happy with the government's decision, announced on Monday that he is resigning. Britain's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, announced his resignation shortly after.

"The change of the Brexit minister will not be a hindrance to continuing the negotiations," Maasikas told BNS.

Maasikas, who is the Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs and also sits on the EU General Affairs Council, said the Brexit talks will once again be discussed on 20 July.

"The current situation of the talks and the recent steps of the British government will be discussed in depth at an Article 50 meeting of the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 20 July. It's important to maintain the well preserved unity of the 27 member states. The main issue of the withdrawal agreement that needs solving is the Irish border issue, in which the United Kingdom and the EU in December 2017 promised to avoid border checks," Maasikas said.

The European Commission, which leads the talks with the British on the EU side, on Monday announced that Davis' resignation is not a problem for the EU and that Brussels is prepared to discuss the agreement "round the clock".

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: BNS

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