What’s the state of play with Biden and the controversial Brexit Bill?

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New citizenship rule (PA Wire)
11:33am, Mon 09 Nov 2020
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Having gone as far as dubbing himself “Mr Brexit”, Donald Trump was a good ally for Boris Johnson to have in the White House as he seeks to negotiate a trade deal.

But the impending arrival of his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, will alter the dynamic between the two nations.

Here is a look at the state of play of the UK’s talks with Brussels and the US in relation to the unfolding situation across the Atlantic.

Joe Biden (PA Archive)

– What does Joe Biden’s victory mean for a trade deal?

Mr Biden is not a natural fan of Brexit and has reservations about the Prime Minister, who he once likened to a “physical and emotional clone” of Mr Trump.

Ministers hope that talks will continue as scheduled but cannot rule out that the change in administration, which does not happen until the inauguration on January 20, will delay talks.

One key collision course with the new look White House is over the Government’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill (UKIMB), which gives ministers the power to override international law.

Mr Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, has been critical of the controversial legislation which seeks to make alterations to issues relating to Northern Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels.

Mr Biden warned that a trade deal with the US is “contingent” on the prevention of the return to a hard border on the island of Ireland and said the peace process cannot “become a casualty of Brexit”.

– What’s next for the controversial legislation?

The Bill was set for votes in the House of Lords on Monday. Many peers, including the Conservative former party leader Lord Howard, are vehemently opposed to it.

The Government is facing a potential defeat as the upper chamber tries to amend it to strip out the most-hated clauses, those which ministers admit could breach international law.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News that the Government would reinstate the clauses when the legislation returns to the Commons, though he sought to reassure Mr Biden there would be no need for a hard border.

But there has been some speculation that a defeat in the Lords could be a blessing of sorts for the Government, in giving Mr Johnson a more palatable way to climb down from the most controversial aspects of the Bill.

The Prime Minister could at that point argue those measures are no longer needed if by then a trade deal has been brokered with the EU.

But that remains a big if.

– How are negotiations with the EU?

Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier is back in London this week to resume talks with his Downing Street counterpart, Lord Frost.

No 10 has said that “significant differences” remain, with fishing policy, state subsidies and governance the key sticking points in negotiations.

The EU was also incensed by the UKIMB, and even began legal action after Mr Johnson refused to drop the legislation by the end-of-September deadline.

The Bill further soured relations, and a fallout after the European Council meeting in October briefly derailed the negotiations.

But both sides have agreed to “redouble efforts” to broker a deal.

– When will this all end?

The transition period in which the UK continues to follow EU law and remains in the single market ends on December 31.

Businesses are growing increasingly concerned that they will be subject to punishingly high trade tariffs if no trade deal with Brussels is in place by then.

But a deal-less departure by that date by no means that talk of Brexit is over, as the UK would still continue to seek trade deals with Brussels and elsewhere.

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