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Keynote Address by Michel Barnier at the Institute of International and European Affairs

We are now less than four months away from 1 January 2021.

This is the date chosen by the UK itself for its “economic and commercial Brexit”, after the “political Brexit” in January this year.

Because, as you know, the UK refused any extension of the transition period.

We have no more time to lose.

We must have a final agreement by the end of October if we are to have a new partnership in place by 1 January 2021.

As I have already explained, this is the only way to give enough time to the European Parliament and the Council to have their say.

Everyone, everywhere must be realistic about this strict deadline.

[European Commission]

Brexit chief Michel Barnier says he’s ‘worried’ about ‘difficult’ negotiations

“It’s been four years that I’ve been living with these articles, these personal attacks, these rumors” in “certain British press” about his impending departure, Barnier told France Inter radio Monday (September 7). He was responding to a question about a report in the Telegraph that EU leaders were set to sideline him in a bid for a breakthrough in the negotiations.

“All these people don’t know how we work on the European side,” Barnier said. “I’m not an individual negotiator, I don’t negotiate for myself but … on a very precise mandate that has been confirmed to me and which is that of the 27 heads of state and the [European] Parliament.”

He added he had other things to focus on as the situation was “very serious.”

“It is a difficult negotiation because the British would like the best of both worlds and to export their products to a market of 450 million consumers on their terms … we would like the conditions to be fair,” Barnier said.


UK warns EU on Brexit: We won’t blink first

Britain will not blink first in Brexit trade negotiations with the European Union and is not scared of a no-deal exit at the end of the year, the country’s top Brexit negotiator warned the bloc on Sunday (September 6).

Britain left the EU on January 31 but talks have so far made little headway on agreeing a new trade deal for when a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December.

“We came in after a government and negotiating team that had blinked and had its bluff called at critical moments and the EU had learned not to take our word seriously,” negotiator David Frost told the Mail on Sunday (September 6).

“So a lot of what we are trying to do this year is to get them to realize that we mean what we say and they should take our position seriously,” he was quoted as saying.

Talks are due to resume in London on Tuesday (September 8) but they have stalled over Britain’s insistence that it have full autonomy over state aid and its demands over fishing.

Britain says the EU is dragging its feet in talks and has failed to fully accept that it is now an independent country.

“We are not going to be a client state. We are not going to compromise on the fundamentals of having control over our own laws,” Frost told the Mail. “We are not going to accept level playing field provisions that lock us in to the way the EU do things.”

“That’s what being an independent country is about, that’s what the British people voted for and that’s what will happen at the end of the year, come what may,” Frost said.


Not enough time to solve ‘critical gaps’ in UK’s post-transition border plan, logistics bodies warn

The UK’s Border Operating Model for post-transition trade has “critical gaps” creating the possibility of border chaos at the start of next year, logistics groups have warned the government in a leaked memo.

A government official’s note from a meeting with representatives of the logistics industry, reported in Bloomberg on 3 September, suggests the industry is concerned that the current model for post-transition trade is “unmanageable”.

Michael Gove, the cabinet minister leading the UK’s no-deal planning, announced the Border Operating Model in July.

As part of the model, new IT platforms – including a Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) and Smart Freight System (SFS) – will be used to streamline documentary requirements for hauliers carrying goods over the border.

Hauliers and freight bodies highlighted 13 key risks to ministers including a lack of contingency planning and fears the new IT systems will not be ready.

“There are up to 10 new systems that haulage firms and freight forwarders will have to navigate from 1 January, including at least three being designed now,” the memo said. “This is completely unnecessary and unmanageable with duplication and overlap.”

The leak came on the same day that 11 logistics industry trade bodies – including the Road Haulage Association and Logistics UK – wrote to the government voicing concerns that inadequate border preparations could lead to “severe” disruption to supply chains at the start of next year.

The letter – seen by the Financial Times – demanded an “urgent” meeting with Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

[Institute of Export and International Trade]


Middle East

Customs fees in Bahrain can be paid online

Customs fees and taxes can now be paid via the national portal, bahrain.bh, without the need to physically visit service centres, said Interior Ministry customs affairs finance head Hamad Buhijji.

Customs fees, and the tax payment service in particular, attract a high volume of requests, standing at approximately 73,000 transactions prior to the service going online.

Beneficiaries of the new service include customs brokers; importers with Bahraini or GCC citizenships; Bahrain or GCC commercial registration holders; governmental and non-governmental entities; international organizations, military missions, embassies and consulates; universities, schools, and other academic, professional, and technical training institutions accredited by the Education Ministry; and Bahrain Customs.




Countries seek removal from controversial EU ‘blacklists’

A number of countries, including Botswana, are putting pressure on the European Commission to remove them from the controversial ‘blacklists’ of countries deemed not to be cooperating in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

The decision by the EU executive on whether to remove countries from the lists is expected to be made in October. Being on the list means that banks must apply stricter due diligence to financial flows involving those countries, and companies there may not receive EU funds.

The ‘blacklist’ has been controversial and a sore point in EU-African relations for several years, with some African finance ministers pointing out that the EU has done little to crack down on its multi-nationals exploiting tax treaty loopholes to dramatically reduce their tax obligations in African states each year.

African critics also complain that the Commission gives them little chance to explain their laws. While Mauritius was warned at the start of the year that it faced being penalised because of its banks’ failure to tackle terrorism-financing, officials in Botswana and Ghana were not.

The African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) community has previously described the listing process as ‘unilateral and discriminatory’.