POLITICS
19/05/2020 16:19 BST | Updated 20/05/2020 14:57 BST

UK And EU Will Fail To Strike Brexit Trade Deal By 2020, Experts Warn

Exclusive: Nearly three quarters (71%) of 100 leading social scientists do not expect a deal to be struck in 2020, despite UK publishing draft treaty on Tuesday.

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The UK and EU will fail to agree a Brexit trade deal before the end of the current transition period on December 31, a majority of experts believe.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of 100 leading social scientists do not expect a deal to be struck in 2020, a Brexit policy panel survey by the UK In A Changing Europe think-tank showed.

And they were almost equally split on whether the transition period, during which there has been little to no serious change in the UK-EU trade relationship, would be extended to allow more time for negotiations.

More than half (53%) of the academics believed it will be extended to allow more time for negotiations despite Boris Johnson ruling out a longer transition period.

But if there is no extension an overwhelming majority (80%) thought leaving the transition without a trade agreement would be equally or more damaging than a no-deal Brexit, which the prime minister avoided by striking a limited withdrawal agreement with the EU last year.

Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “Our survey shows that the majority of our experts simply do not think there will be enough time to agree a deal with the EU by the end of this year. 

“It’s worth reminding ourselves that leaving without a deal will inflict further damage on an economy already reeling under the impact of the pandemic.”

The experts last summer correctly predicted that Brexit would not happen on October 31 and that UK would have to ask for a delay.

OLIVIER HOSLET via Getty Images
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and the British prime minister's Europe adviser David Frost at start of the first round of post-Brexit trade deal talks

The survey came as the government published a 291-page draft comprehensive free trade agreement in a bid to unblock the negotiations which have been at an impasse since the UK left the EU on January 31.

The two sides are far apart, with the UK rejecting EU demands to agree to a “level playing field” of minimum standards in areas including workers’ rights and the environment.

A poll shared with HuffPost UK on Monday however showed that younger Leave voters favour maintaining or increasing EU standards after Brexit.

The UK is meanwhile rejecting EU demands for fishing rights in British waters.

At the same time, the UK has kicked off trade negotiations with the United States in an attempt to mitigate the impact of lost EU trade and put pressure on Brussels to come to an agreement.

But the experts were split on whether a UK-US deal would be completed within the next five years, with 42% doubting an agreement by 2025 and 38% believing it can be done.

Furthermore, more than half (55%) of the panel thought leaving the EU had hampered the UK’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK has been criticised for failing to join an EU scheme to procure ventilators and other medical equipment to help deal with the outbreak.

Despite EU disunity over coronavirus, more than three quarters (76%) of experts thought it was unlikely that any other member state would leave the bloc in the next ten years, against 24% who thought it likely.

The survey came as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told the Commons that the EU wanted the UK to continue to follow its rules while Brussels refused to row back on fishing rights.

“The EU essentially wants us to obey the rules of their club even though we’re no longer members and they want the same access to our fishing grounds as they currently enjoy, while restricting our access to their markets,” the Cabinet Office minister told MPs when answering an urgent question about the third round of negotiations.

Gove said success in the fourth round of the talks, due to start on June 1, “depends on the EU recognising that the UK is sovereign”.

It came as trade secretary Liz Truss published the tariff schedule the government would operate at the end of the transition period for countries with whom the UK does not have a free trade agreement.

She confirmed that post-Brexit tariffs will see duties axed on around £62bn worth of imports, while tariffs will also be protected for industries such as agriculture, automotive and fishing.

Items such as dishwashers, freezers and even Christmas trees will see zero tariffs under the regime, while the government said cooking products such as cocoa and baking powder will also be levy-free.

The UK will also see thousands of tariff variations on products scrapped – including more than 13,000 tariff variations on products including biscuits, waffles, pizzas, quiches, confectionery and spreads.