Barnier talks imports! Brussels adds TRADE to agenda before Brexit divorce bill is decided

EUROPEAN Union Brexit negotiators look set to break their own rules by adding trade to the agenda as talks resume in Brussels.

Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has always insisted financial obligations and the rights of EU citizens in Britain must be thrashed out before future trade relations are discussed.But it appears Mr Barnier now intends to raise the issue of EU import quotas with Brexit Secretary David Davis this week.

Mr Davis and Mr Barnier will open proceedings in the European Commission’s Berlaymont building at 2.30pm.

David Davis and Michel BarnierGETTY        David Davis and Michel Barnier meet for more Brexit talks in Brussels

David DavisGETTY      

David Davis is leading the UK negotiating team

Negotiators will then break into working groups to discuss citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and “other separation issues”Discussions about the Irish border are expected to get under way tomorrow.

There is no mention of import quotas in the official agenda but trade looks certain to be brought up on the sidelines with the EU team examining options for adjusting the amount of imports it allows into the EU from abroad once Britain leaves the bloc.

David Davis and Michel BarnierGETTY             David Davis and Michel Barnier are likely to discuss trade during the talks

Under WTO rules, the EU has 124 deals on the quantity of products such as chicken, butter and beef it allows its trading partners to export every year.Such import quotas specify certain quantities of this produce that can enter the EU from abroad with lower duties.

Quotas are divided up and allotted to importers depending on where the demand is within the EU – New Zealand exports 230,000 tons of lamb and goat meat to the bloc each year but the UK eats up around 40 per cent of that total.

Sabine Weyand, deputy chief negotiator in the European Commission’s Brexit task force, told senior EU diplomats there were three possible solutions, according to

David Davis and Michel BarnierGETTY               Citizens’ rights and the ‘divorce bill’ are high on this week’s agenda

The first would be to leave all import quotas the same — an option Brussels does not favour because it would mean spreading Britain’s share of each quota among the remaining 27 members.The second option foresees Britain negotiating to take over a portion of the EU quota but only by changing very sensitive products such as beef and butter, a solution diplomats described as complicated to achieve.

The final option, preferred by Brussels, is to lower the EU quota and have Britain add a new quota itself. However, this would not go down well in London where the Government is keen to forge new trade deals with international partners after it has left the EU.

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