Brexit core issues: The five issues UK and EU officials remain far apart on

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EU and UK leaders are facing a crunch time for Brexit talks, as both teams endeavour to avoid a no-deal Brexit before 2021. The bloc recently joined with Emmanuel Macron to issue an uncompromising message to Boris Johnson, in which they insisted the Government must accept EU terms or rollover to no-deal. The British side remains stubborn in its approach to deal-making and has reached a standoff with EU negotiators on several issues.


One of the obstacles in the way of a smooth Brexit is an agreement on fishing in the English Channel.

UK negotiators must still reach access arrangements for the EU in British waters.

Emmanuel Macron has refused any changes to the current agreement, as he will need support from the north of France when he runs for reelection in 2022.

The region shares the English channel with the UK and requires British waters to meet fishing quotas.

Level playing field

The level playing field refers to a set of rules and standards which prevent businesses from one country undercutting rivals in others.

The EU employs the level playing field in their single market, and the bloc wants the UK to continue abiding by some of these rules in pursuit of fairness.

British officials have already agreed to follow some rules on state aid and competition and pledged not to lower existing environmental and about commitments.

However, they reject the EU’s position for rigid legal commitment and do not want to agree to anything which goes beyond a typical trade agreement.

The Internal Market Bill

The Internal Market Bill is a recent introduction to Parliament which could break international law “in a limited and specific way” according to the Government and reneges on the Withdrawal Agreement.

The bill has not yet broken the law, but it allows ministers to do so if they choose, and has undermined EU confidence in the UK in sticking to agreements.

As such, they have threatened legal repercussions if the Government goes ahead with the bill, which threatens to harm UK-EU relations.

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State aid

The EU defines state aid as spending that could distort trade between its members.

Rules surrounding this aid has emerged as a sticky issue for EU-UK negotiations as the EU wants the UK to adopt its rules.

However, the UK wants to accept obligations similar to the bloc’s agreement with Canada, which do little more than affirm commitments already made within the World Trade Organisation.

The bloc argues the size and proximity of the UK means it has to adopt stricter obligations for state aid, and this part of the agreement remains unresolved.

Internal security

British negotiators want a separate security agreement which cements closer cooperation between the EU and UK and access to the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

The EU, on the other hand, wants a more limited agreement which would include less detail on data sharing.

The bloc has already ruled out a Government proposal of going beyond third-country precedents on data sharing.

They have made no provision for access to EU databases such as ECRIS, currently employed by EU members only.

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