EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has been appointed head of the EU team that will negotiate a future free trade agreement with Great Britain. Barnier currently leads the team of legal and technical experts who have negotiated the Brexit with the British for the past three years. That team will be expanded for the negotiations on a Euro-British trade agreement.
There is already a start on the new trade treaty, in the form of the political declaration that has been drawn up as an annex to the resignation agreement. In it, the EU and the United Kingdom indicate on which side both parties want to go in their new trade relationship. After the withdrawal from the UK, that statement will have to result in a trade agreement, which is expected to be negotiated for years.
The negotiations can start as soon as the British and European Parliament approve the latest version of the Brexit deal, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson closed in Brussels last week. It is not that far yet. The chance is real that the UK parliament will want to attach detailed conditions to such a treaty.
Moreover, the Labor opposition is known to want to maintain a number of EU rules on environmental policy, social security, minimum wages and labor issues after the Brexit. Furthermore, the chance is not excluded that British voters will have something to say about it, in the form of a (second) referendum, or through early parliamentary elections.
Barnier said earlier that the agreement that the European Union reached with the United Kingdom is the only deal that can result in a negotiated orderly brexit. The British Parliament still has to vote on that deal and the related laws. Far-reaching changes are therefore no longer possible according to Barnietr.
But that will not be the end of the story, Barnier clarified. After all, a trade agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom will have to be negotiated, as agreed in the Political Declaration. And those negotiations will last for one to three years or maybe even longer, that is the expectation.