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Brexit: Delay in trade talks likely as EU grows impatient with perceived UK unpreparedness

EU and UK officials have raised concerns that the EU-UK future trade relationship won’t be discussed until December following the third round of negotiations. Officials initially expected to begin negotiations for a future trade agreement by October of this year. However, EU leaders have expressed frustration with the UK negotiation team, citing a lack of preparedness and lack of substance in its recently published position papers.

The next major milestone for negotiations is the European Council Summit on 19 October, where EU leaders will determine whether sufficient progress has been made in the first stage of negotiations in order to advance to discussions on the future trade relationship, as outlined in the Council mandate. The UK government, which has accepted some of the EU’s hard lines, has adjusted its expectations for progress ahead of the October summit. It now hopes for both sides to have considered and possibly agree to a time-limited transitional period, avoiding a cliff after Brexit. Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox have both suggested that this period should not extend past 2022, the year of the next UK General Election.

A delay in trade negotiations would increase uncertainty for businesses: UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned Prime Minister May that failure to make significant progress by the end of the year could lead to a “mass exodus” of businesses from the UK who may need to develop contingency plans for a “hard Brexit”.

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