The UK Government has published position papers outlining the UK’s negotiating approach to Goods on the Market and to Confidentiality and Access to Official Documents ahead of the third round of negotiations on Brexit.
The papers reflect the Government’s aim of moving discussions with the European Union (EU) beyond a focus on settling divorce arrangements (and in particular the question of financial settlement, citizen’s rights and Northern Ireland) and towards future trading relations with the bloc. The issue of the papers is also intended to deflect recent criticism from EU officials that the UK Government is unprepared for talks and has no position on many issues.
Position Paper “Continuity in the Availability of Goods for the EU and the UK”
The avowed aim is to prevent bureaucracy and unnecessary duplication of effort by business. Four key principles are set out in the paper as follows:-
- Goods placed on the single market before exit should continue to circulate freely in the UK and the EU, without additional requirements or restrictions. Special recognition is given in this context to agri-food products. While EU imports of agriculture, fisheries and food products from the UK were 16.6 billion Euros in 2016, exports to the UK were 39.8 billion Euros. Over 70% of the UK’s annual agri-food imports come from the EU. For these products it is proposed that a special definition of “placing on the market” will be used because the food chain can involve long production cycles and certain goods are held in storage for long periods. This proposal has been welcomed by farming groups.
- The paper notes that in some cases commercial activities will have taken place in relation to goods to be placed on the market prior to the goods actually being placed on the market. For instance, persons may enter into contracts to purchase goods before these goods have been made, such as pre-ordered cars. Businesses may therefore have undertaken a number of complex, lengthy and often costly procedures to ensure that goods and business practices are complying with EU legislation and production requirements. These could include, for example, undergoing inspection by an EU recognised body to ensure production is in accordance with good manufacturing practice or collecting and submitting data on the hazards and risks of a chemical substance. The paper argues work is needed on recognising the validity of approvals, certificates and registrations issued prior to exit so that these will have continuing validity after exit.
- To ensure that goods in circulation continue to comply with product legislation and market surveillance authorities can ensure action is taken with respect to non-compliant products. For instance there should be requirements on market authorisation holders to report adverse reactions to medicines.
- Goods and services often move in “lock step” with each other with services being crucial for the sale, distribution, operation and repair of goods. Where goods are supplied with services there should be no restriction to the provision of these services that could undermine the agreement on goods. So for instance the qualifications of professionals involved in delivering services linked to goods could be recognised in both the UK and the EU.
Further UK Government position papers are imminently anticipated in relation to post Brexit judicial co-operation, dispute resolution in the light of Britain’s intention to end its involvement with the European Court of Justice and Data Protection.
Position Paper on "Confidentiality and Access to Documents"
This is a very brief paper setting out the basic premise that on a reciprocal basis any information marked as classified before Britain leaves the EU should continue to enjoy such protection after Brexit. This is hardly surprising and is unlikely to be contentious but has been said by some commentators to underline distrust between negotiators in London and Brussels.