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Covid-19 ramps up pressure to extend Brexit transition

21 March 2020

There is pressure to extend the Brexit future relationship negotiations, as complications over Covid-19 add to the already very tight timeframe.

Following a tense first round, after which EU negotiator Michel Barnier spoke of “very serious” clashes in objectives, a second round was cancelled due to the virus. Now Mr Barnier has become ill with it.

The EU takes a tough line on maintaining current rules on reciprocal fishing access, which the UK does not want – just one of several contentious areas.

There is speculation that an extension beyond December 31 will have to be agreed – requiring a change in UK law and agreement before the end of June. The British prime minister says he has “no intention” of seeking this.

The sides are looking at alternative ways of negotiating, such as via video-conferencing.

Key rights to live and work in France, and have healthcare and uprated pensions, are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) for Britons living in France before the end of the transition period.

However, the talks have a bearing on several important areas, especially for second home-owners or Britons who move over in the future.

They include healthcare cover for visitors, coordination of state pension contributions in different countries, pension uprating, avoiding paying social security contributions in two countries at the same time, the UK’s participation in Erasmus, judicial cooperation on criminal and civil matters (eg. child custody), mutual recognition of qualifications, movement of capital, payments and transfers, and rules on transport and
travel between the UK and EU by road, rail and air.

There are no pledges to consider simplified immigration for Britons to the EU or vice versa, beyond limited categories.

There is also no mention so far of “continuing free movement” to live and work across the EU for Britons covered by the WA.

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