Blog: Brexit goes down to the line: Deal, no-deal or fudge? – Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – After nearly five years of Brexit crisis, the European Union and Britain are making a last ditch attempt to clinch a thin trade deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual imports and exports from 2021.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives to attend a news conference at the European Union leaders summit dominated by Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The United Kingdom left the EU last January but the trade deal would kick in when it leaves informal membership – known as the transition period – in nine weeks time.

If a deal can be done before the transition period ends on Dec. 31, the two sides would sign more than 1,000 pages of international treaties covering everything from smoked salmon and cheese to car parts and medicine.

So far, there is no breakthrough, though talks in London and Brussels made progress on unifying texts each side has so far prepared separately. Sticking points remain on economic fair play, fisheries or settling disputes, sources on both sides said.

Here are three main scenarios for Brexit.

1. THIN DEAL THIS YEAR

Even if the two sides do clinch a zero-tariff and zero-quota trade deal, it will be thin.

There will be little scope for closer integration in areas such as services and regulations. Neither would it guarantee continued close ties on many current areas of tight cooperation including on foreign policy, international security and defence.

While far short of the aspirations of both sides following the 2016 Brexit referendum, such a narrow deal is seen as the most economically beneficial option now available. It would keep the bloc’s internal market of 450 million consumers open to the world’s sixth largest economy, and vice versa.

With a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ripping through Europe, the bloc hopes to avoid more economic damage. Still, even with a deal, many British exporters expect disruptions at the main borders with the EU in early 2021.

2. TUMULTUOUS NO DEAL

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ultimately decides that a narrow deal is not in his political interest and the United Kingdom leaves without a deal – possibly amid a row.

After Johnson’s bid to undercut the 2020 Brexit divorce treaty, there are fears that London is employing what one European diplomat said was Madman Theory – a reference to former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s attempt to convince Moscow that he was irrational during the Cold War.

If the negotiators fail to overcome the technical and political differences, Britain and the EU would fall back on World Trade Organization rules, which include trade barriers.

Johnson says he wants a deal but has repeatedly said that he is ready to leave without a deal – on so-called “Australian terms” – if the EU asks for too many concessions.

The EU does not have a free-trade agreement with Canberra and such an arrangement would give Britain trading terms on par with China but worse than many developing countries like Afghanistan or Mali have with the bloc.

The EU does not believe a no-deal split at the end of the year would exhaust the tortuous Brexit saga and a French diplomat predicted the ensuing chaos in commerce would soon force a return to talks.

The EU also insists it would not enact any new trade deal if Britain goes ahead with plans to undercut their earlier divorce settlement, in particular for the sensitive Irish border.

3. MESSY FUDGE

Amid political grandstanding on both sides, pressure from businesses forces a partial compromise on certain areas at the last minute.

The partial deal – covering some key areas where the sides can find agreement – could be temporarily applied without ratification from EU lawmakers should they run out of time.

Such a super slim deal, even thinner than predicted under the first scenario, effectively pushes negotiations on the outstanding issues into 2021 and onwards.

That would give Johnson the sensitive political win of delivering a deal without going back on his promise not to prolong Britain’s way out of the EU beyond 2020.

To what extent the sides would then be able to build on such a half-baked treaty would also largely depend on how far London would push its new right to move away from EU standards.

In particular, the UK would risk erecting a regulatory wall with the EU market if it were to relax its own standards on animal and food safety to win a new U.S. trade agreement, which is crucial to the “global Britain” Brexit agenda.

Additional reporting by Michel Rose and Philip Blenkinsop, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Guy Faulconbridge, Editing by William Maclean

Blog: Brexiteer complains about losing access to EU fast lanes – The New European

A former Brexit Party candidate has accused the EU of being ‘spiteful’ after it rejected a UK request to allow Britons to continue using passport fast lanes across Europe after Brexit.

Ex-South Shields Brexit Party candidate and South Tyneside councillor Glenn Thompson accused the EU of “spite [and] nothing else” after it emerged the bloc refused to give Britons preferential treatment at passport checkpoints across Europe from January 1.

The European Commission rejected Britain’s offer to maintain reciprocal access to fast lanes after Brexit meaning Britons will soon have to join potentially long queues at arrival gates when they enter an EU member state.

This comes as the European Tourism Association warned that it could as long as five hours for Britons to pass through passport checks at popular European travel destinations such as Faro and Tenerife.

British negotiators had asked Brussels to allow other EU countries to continue giving UK passport holders the same level of access they enjoy now as a de facto member of the EU, despite repeated warnings Brexit would signal the end of frictionless travel.

This led one EU diplomat to declare the ”EU law currently reserves use of e-gates to holders of EU/EEA/CH passports”.

E-gates electronically scan biometric passports meaning travellers do not have to be physically checked by a border guard.

Incensed by the news, Thompson took to Twitter, posting a link to a story on the new restrictions with the comment: “Just spite, nothing else!”.

Users were quick to correct the councillor.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray tweeted: “You were told the consequences. You voted for it calling it ‘Project Fear’. Tough sh*t. Suck it up buttercup. #BrexitReality.”

Sarah Hurst wrote: “Mate, this is literally what we asked for.”

Jessica Simon QC said: “I thought your political party advocated treating EU citizens in exactly the same way as any other non-British citizen. That is all that is happening – it’s just that it’s happening to us.”

“What did you think the end of freedom of movement meant?” asked Debora Robertson before one user quipped: ”Oh dear. What a pity. Never mind. Should have voted to stay in the EU, then.”

Another member, by the name of Dr Beyer, said: “This is what happens when you leave the EU. You stop being able to use the EU/EEA queue. Nothing to do with spite. Time for a reality check, I think.”

Thompson shot back, posting: “A source in the UK negotiating team said: ‘We have offered to discuss access to e-gates in line with our previously published positions.’ Access to EU gates hasn’t been discussed in the formal trade negotiations so far. It is beneficial to both the EU and UK and will be negotiated.”

Thompson rowed with Femi, another anti-Brexit advocate, accusing him of coming from a privileged background. Arthur Smith shot back: “It must take an enormous sense of entitlement to leave the EU and expect access to the EU gates as though nothing happened. We may negotiate that but there will be a cost elsewhere.”

Blog: UK Immigration Rule Changes Post-Brexit – The National Law Review

On 22 October 2020, the United Kingdom government issued a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules that will come into force for visa applications submitted after 9 a.m. on 1 December 2020. Under the new rules, the visa application process for European Union (EU) and non-EU-nationals will be the same.

Four New Routes to Obtaining a Visa Have Been Added:

Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Route

New rules have been introduced to reflect the government’s commitment to establishing strong immigration ties with Hong Kong. Changes are being made to entitlements attached to Hong Kong BN(O) citizens. Two new routes will allow for work, study and settlement in the U.K.:

  • BN(O) Status Holder route — for citizens who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the U.K. The route is extended to dependent partners, dependent children and potentially other dependent family members if they are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the U.K.

  • BN(O) Household Member route — for the child (born on or after 1 July 1997) of a BN(O) citizen, and their dependent family members. All must live in the same household as the BN(O) citizen.

Skilled Worker Route (replacing Tier 2 General Visa)

The Skilled Worker route will bring European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who want to work in the U.K. within the global points-based immigration system (PBS). This will require businesses, charities and voluntary bodies to adopt new processes for recruiting EEA nationals.

  • Applicants must be sponsored by an employer licensed by the Home Office, and will need to be awarded 70 points in total under the PBS.

  • Applicants must be sponsored to do a specific job.

Other changes are aimed at decreasing the new burden on businesses, including:

  • Lowering the minimum skill threshold from graduate occupations to occupations skilled at a level equivalent to A-levels (RQF level 3).

  • Lowering annual salary thresholds from £30,000 to £25,600.

  • Suspending the annual quota on visas issued. Abolishing the six-year visa limit and the 12-month “cooling off period”.

  • Abolishing the minimum salary for Indefinite Leave to Remain applications.

With respect to the Resident Labour Market Test, the requirement for employers to first advertise any job not on the shortage occupation list has been removed for all roles.

The Skilled Worker category will apply to any foreign national that is being sponsored to work in the U.K. from 1 December 2020. It will also be possible to submit Skilled Worker visa applications for EU citizens starting work on or after 1 January 2021.

S2 Healthcare Visitor Route

Eligible patients (and their companion) will be able to enter the U.K. for a period to allow completion of their treatment.

Service Providers from Switzerland Route

In line with the Citizens’ Rights Agreement with Switzerland, service providers could be eligible if it is U.K.-based work, contracted and commenced before the end of the transition period between businesses or individuals established in Switzerland and the U.K.

Changes Have Been Made to the Following Routes:

Afghan Interpreter Rules

Changes will be made to allow Afghan interpreters who served with British forces on the frontline for a minimum of 12 months, and their family members, to apply to relocate to the U.K.

This is a time-limited amendment and applications will need to be submitted between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2022.

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

EEA and Swiss citizens, and their family members, living in the U.K. by the end of the transition period, will be able to obtain the U.K. immigration status required for them to remain in the U.K. after 30 June 2021, with the same rights they held before the U.K. left the EU.

Visitor Rules

  • Visitors who so far could only study for up to 30 days will be permitted to study for up to six months under the standard visitor route (previously this access was granted through the short-term study route).This means that applicants who previously had to apply for a short-term student visa to study for a period of between 30 days and six months can now apply for a visit visa.

  • Academic visitors will have more liberty to apply to extend their permission to stay in the U.K. for up to 12 months.

  • Drivers on international routes will be permitted to collect and deliver goods and passengers across the U.K. border.

  • The requirement will be removed for volunteering to be incidental to the main reason for the visit.

Short-term Study Route

The Student and Child Student Routes (collectively referred to as Student Routes)

  • The maintenance levels are being amended in line with the current home student maintenance loans of £1,334 per month inside London and £1,023 outside London.

  • Restrictions of post-graduate doctors in training will be removed, allowing them to continue working for the National Health Service.

  • A sponsor can no longer self-assess if a student’s language ability is at the initially required B1 level; they can only self-assess if a student’s language ability will improve to the required B2 level.

  • Application forms will be updated to reflect the situation of EEA nationals who hold a chipped passport.

  • Students and their dependants who are allowed to work will now be able to work as postgraduate doctors or dentists in training.

Parent of a Child Student Visa Rules

  • Applicants who do not meet the application requirements will be rejected rather than refused.

  • Applicants cannot switch into this route from a visitor or short-term student route.

  • The maintenance requirement for parents will be set at £1,270.

  • Parents must no longer re-apply every 12 months; instead their leave will be granted until the child student’s 12th birthday or the end of their visa, whichever is soonest.

Intra-Company Route (previously Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa)

  • The “cooling-off” period has been removed. However, there will still be a time limit on how long an applicant can be under this route, and it will not provide an avenue to settlement.

  • Leave will be granted for up to five years in any six-year rolling period, or up to nine years in any 10-year period for high earners (more than £73,900 per annum).

  • High earners are exempt from needing to have worked overseas for the UK company for 12 months prior to entering the U.K.

  • Applicants in the U.K. can more easily switch from another route, including the Skilled Worker route, if they meet qualifying criteria. There are more flexible switching provisions if the foreign national applicant has been working for the sponsor for 12 months at the date of application (except for high earners).

Global Talent Route

Requirements for English Language, Finance, and Knowledge of Life in the UK

The requirements are being revised and simplified, making it more accessible and less time consuming for applicants.

Sham-Marriage Schemes

There are new grounds for refusal or cancellation of a visa for being involved in a sham marriage.

Marriage and Civil Partnership Visitor Visa Requirements

These are being simplified for individuals seeking to come to the U.K. to marry or form a civil partnership or give notice that such has occurred.

Turkish ECAA Businessperson Categories

A businessperson under the provisions of the European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) with Turkey for extension of stay can sponsor a partner and children to come to or remain in the U.K.

This route will not exist after 31 December 2020. They will need to meet the normal U.K. Immigration Rules.

Administrative Review

Administrative review will be available on relevant decisions made in relation to a wide range of applications. A person awaiting the result of administrative review cannot be removed from the U.K.

Youth Mobility Scheme

  • San Marino has been added to the Youth Mobility Scheme country list as a country without Deemed Sponsorship Status with an allocation of 1,000 places.

  • The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is being added to the list of countries where invitation-to-apply arrangements operate.

Other Changes:

COVID-19 Concessions

In recent months, the Home Office often has repeated that those who did not have leave in the U.K. due to the pandemic would not be treated as overstayers. This has now made it into the Immigration Rules, by amending paragraph 39E to allow caseworkers to disregard overstaying between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020.

An Important Note for Current Tier 2 Sponsors

For companies that already hold a Tier 2 (General and/or ICT) Sponsor Licence, when the above changes take effect the company’s Sponsor Licence will automatically switch to the new system — that is, their licence will become a new Skilled Worker Licence and/or Intra-Company Transfer Licence with an expiry date consistent with their current Tier 2 Sponsor Licence. Their new licence will also receive an appropriate allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).