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Crunch talks on Brexit deal continue, new UK Covid-19 restrictions announced, and NAO warns of significant border disruption

Publish Date 25 Nov 2020
Categories Brexit Bulletin

Brexit talks continue

Negotiations between the UK and the EU have resumed with Lord Frost and Michel Barnier committing to meeting daily to help finalise the deal. However, in-person negotiations have been suspended for a short period after an EU negotiator tested positive for Coronavirus last week. Both Frost and Barnier agreed that “nothing is agreed” until progress has been reached in all areas, which has been a demand of the EU. Key areas to finalise include fishing rights, post-Brexit competition rules and how the deal would be enforced.

New national restrictions announced and loan schemes extended

Boris Johnson announced new tougher restrictions on 31 October, requiring people to stay at home unless for specific purposes. These restrictions will be in place for a month until 2 December. All non-essential businesses, leisure and entertainment venues will close for this period. The government also extended the furlough scheme to March 2021 with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked. These restrictions will soon be replaced with a new toughened tier system of restrictions as announced by Boris Johnson in a statement on the COVID-19 Winter Plan on Monday 23 November. From Wednesday 2 December people will be able to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor spaces, subject to the Rule of Six. In areas where Coronavirus cases are most prevalent, tougher measures will be implemented.

Last month it was also announced that UK firms now have until next year to apply for the government’s three Coronavirus business interruption loan schemes. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) will be extended until 31 January 2021. This extension also applies to the Future Fund. Businesses will also be able to “top up” existing Bounce Back Loans provided that the full allowance had not been taken.

Government gives advice to businesses ahead of end of transition period

Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has provided businesses with tailored advice on key actions businesses must take after the transition period ends. His letter included advice on keeping up to date with new importing and exporting rules and any marking requirements or approvals needed, registering as a licensed visa sponsor, and the latest guidance on moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland. The Government has published information on businesses using personal data after the transition period. From 1 January 2021, organisations may need to have Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) in place with EU counterparts in order to legally receive personal data from the EU. The Government has encouraged business to register for sector-specific webinars, created to prepare businesses for new rules. As well as this, the Government also urged businesses to sign up to the Trader Support Service, which will support traders moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol. Over 7,000 businesses have already registered, sign up here.

Treasury minister rules out copying across EU legislation

In a letter sent to Lord Kinnoull last month, John Glen, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed that the Government does not intend to copy the European Commission’s Capital markets package or any “other future EU measures into UK legislation”. Glen noted that the UK Securitisation Regulation compels the Government to review the current framework by the end of 2021, to ensure the UK considers what is most appropriate for the UK securitsation market.

UK secures trade deals with Kenya and Canada

Under the new agreement, finalised on 3 November, all businesses operating in Kenya will continue to benefit from duty-free access as they export products. Through maintaining tariff-free market access, the deal will support Kenyans working in sectors where UK importing is high. This agreement also guarantees continued market access for UK exporters and be formally signed shortly subject to routine checks.

Over the weekend, the government announced an “agreement in principle” with Canada, in a rollover trade deal that will keep trading under EU terms. The agreement was finalised in a video call between Boris Johnson and Justin Trudeau, joined by Liz Truss and her Canadian counterpart, Mary Ng. Under this new deal, the UK and Canada agreed to roll over current EU-Canada trading arrangements and begin negotiations on a new, bespoke UK-Canada trade deal in 2021.

Survey and research round up

NAO concerns over border disruption

The National Audit Office (NAO) warned of “significant” border disruption in its new report on the UK’s preparedness for the end of the transition period. They believe it is unlikely that all traders, industry and third parties will be ready for new EU controls.

Please feel free to contact the Policy Team for further information on any of the matters raised in this update.