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Covid halting the negotiations while neither UK nor EU appears ready for January 1st

A member of the Brussels negotiation team led by Michel Barnier has tested positive for Covid 19 causing the in-person talks to be suspended. As a result, the chief negotiator has to now self-isolate for a week, in accordance with the Belgian rules. The standstill comes at a crucial point, right as the Brexit-deal talks enter the “move week”. Having missed the previous deadlines, the expectation was that the talks would be intensified in the coming week. 

When the news emerged, Downing Street insisted to carry on with the talks remotely, via video conference calls. Both parties aim to continue the negotiations in accordance with the health guidelines as Covid cases and death rate rise in Belgium and across the world. Without the final decision as to whether or not the talks will continue online, the potential of reaching an agreement in time is looking less and less likely. 

“It is time to clarify what this Brexit will look like. We are in stoppage time in negotiations. A final agreement will have to be reached in the coming days,” said Alexander DeCroo, the prime minister of Belgium, before the announcement of the chief negotiator having to self-isolate.  

DeCroo admitted Belgium, France and the Netherlands have requested the European Commission to accelerate its contingency planning in preparation for a no-deal Brexit. 

The UK attempting to prepare the drivers for post-Brexit reality

Deal or no-deal, disruptions are inevitable. The entire supply chain of products that are being imported and exported between the UK and the EU countries is going to be subject to new rules. One of the elements of this supply chain is on-road transport and all the new regulations that could cause delays for lorry drivers coming in and out of Dover. 

A few weeks ago, Gove warned of the potential queues forming in Kent with 7,000 lorries waiting to get on to ferries and Eurotunnel trains as formalities regarding the new “Kent Access Permit” are likely to be finalised at the last minute. 

In an attempt to educate lorry drivers ahead of time, the UK government set up an information point in Ashford international truck stop with staff members encouraging lorry drivers to come and train on the new requirements and regulations that will come into place from January 1st. As reported by the Financial Times reporter who spent a couple of hours observing the efforts of the staff at the truck stop trying to summon lorry drivers and help them prepare for the post-Brexit future, the take up was poor. 

Not only was the language barrier an issue, but the priorities of lorry drivers versus the staff were completely misaligned, too. 

It was clear that drivers wanted to spend their free time enjoying a hot meal and a shower, and not hearing more about Brexit. Some told FT they expect their employers, back in their home countries, to train them on the new laws and regulations, but admitted no training has been provided yet.

Knowledge is power 

The phrase “Knowledge is power” can be inarguably applied in the case of Brexit. Whether the UK leaves the EU on 31st December with or without a trade deal, there’s going to be disruption to the way businesses operate. Staying on top of the latest updates and being informed is the best way to build the foundations to prepare and plan for the uncertain future. We have more than doubled our staff count and invested in hours of training in order to be prepared for our clients. If you’re in doubt on what Brexit will mean to you, get in touch with our team today.

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