Talks and negotiations never ran smoothly when we were fully joined within the EU so why on earth anyone would expect the UK’s extrication from the single European market to be all sweetness and light.
When the UK joined, way back in 1973, along with Denmark and Ireland, there was a small core of key European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands giving a total of just nine; there are now 27 countries within. There is no doubt that in 1973 no single country envisaged the blocks expansion to include the broad spectrum of language, politics and history that it now does.
So after almost 50 years of ‘togetherness’ it’s hardly surprising to watch as both partners, the EU Commission and the UK, work their way through a very tricky divorce with neither side wanting to lose face or compromise on major issues.
After 4 years, since the referendum vote to withdraw by the British people, externally little seems to have moved forward in the way of either side accommodating the other’s terms.
Internally much has been progressed by both sides ‘behind the scenes’ in arranging each’s contingency plans and these have become more apparent as we move towards the deadline at the end of this year.
The key sticking points that still remain are over fishing rights for European boats in UK waters, and the state aid rules imposed by Britain’s Government after the end of the transition period.
The outlook remains pessimistic on both sides right now, not unlike the position of the withdrawal agreement last year. To be able to reach a deal even at this late stage could resolve the remaining issues and effectively do away with the Internal Market Bill.
Today we have Boris Johnson declaring that “he does not believe the EU is negotiating a trade deal with the UK in good faith” and that " the Internal Market Bill (ITB) provided a belt and braces safety net” - whereas on the other side of the negotiating table diplomats see that threat of the ITB as a smoking gun on the table.
So the talks seem to go around in yet another circle, not unlike a game of poker but on a somewhat grand scale.
The October deadline gives EU governments time to ratify the trade agreement before the end of the transition period on December 31. Failure to strike the deal by January 1 will mean the UK and EU trading on World Trade Organisation terms.
So what of the ITB? The aim of the Internal Market Bill was to keep the joined-up market to ensure all four of the UK’s nations are not limited by regulations determined by each sector’s devolved government. For a full and complete understanding this is must read documentation: https://ukandeu.ac.uk/the-internal-market-bill-implications-for-devolution/
To save you ploughing through it all a key quote, and in respect to the question posed - What Could Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill Mean for Future Trade Deals? - This is a highly notable answering phrase: “… Whatever happens, the conditions in which business, politics and civic society will have to operate after the end of the transition period will change forever. Beyond legal frameworks and paperwork and trader support services, what will make the biggest difference of all is whether each side can trust – and present – each other as a credible partner, especially when it comes to the ever-tricky case of Northern Ireland… .”
One other key point not to be overlooked here, and that has inevitably gripped the headlines, is the admission by the UK government that the Bill will break international law.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, stated that the ITB "this does break international law…but only in a very specific and limited way".
In a qualifying explanation he clarified that the Bill would effectively set aside the essence of Article Four of the Withdrawal Agreement and regain UK domestic law primacy. This has been justified as, not only being but also, a protective measure against EU threats to ban the sale of agriculture and food products from the UK into the EU.
The Prime Minister further underlined this by stating in parliament that it was “ about protecting jobs, protecting growth and ensuring the fluidity and safety of our internal market. ”
So, whilst this is all about politics on a world stage and not poker it is worth noting that - “You will show your poker greatness by the hands you fold, not the hands you play.” - so watch this space for imminent developments!