While the media has been almost totally focused on the pandemic the time is running down on the transition period for the UK’s exit from the EU at the end of the year. This might change following the latest reports emanating from Brussels and Downing Street that suggests a deal is looking a bit more likely.
A big issue is fishing where until now Brussels has EU demanded that Britain must respect the right of fleets from EU countries to access UK waters on the same basis as exists at the moment. If, as now seem possible , this is not going to be a deal breaker then it clears the decks for possible progress on the trade deal aspects.
Johnson is under enormous pressure because the pandemic and the lockdown look set to impact on the UK economy more strongly than in most of the EU countries. The risk of a no deal Brexit is greater than it appeared at the start of the year before coronavirus completely changes the political agenda. According to the Times:
Brussels is preparing to back down over a Brexit fishing deal and acknowledge for the first time that European fleets do not have an automatic right to fish in British waters. In a concession to help to unlock negotiations, Michel Barnier is understood to accept that the UK will have to be treated as an independent coastal state and have annual negotiations with the bloc over fishing quotas from next year.
After a video conference yesterday the PM said the EU and the UK were “not that far apart” on the future relationship. What was needed was “a bit of oomph” in the negotiations which he suggested could be concluded by the end of July.
The Tories won their big majority six months with the slogan “Get Brexit Done” which makes it much less likely that a further transition period extension is possible.