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Brexit Weekly Digest - 18 June

This week we report on the G7 summit, looking at who was there, and what the world leaders announced. We also look at the first post-Brexit trade deal to be built from scratch, as the UK and Australia reach an agreement in principle. Plus, the EU and UK government only have two weeks to break the Irish Sea deadlock.

UK and Australia in first post-Brexit trade deal

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has agreed a trade deal between the UK and Australia. The deal is the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal to be built from scratch, and is seen to be a significant step towards the UK joining a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement (CPTPP).

The deal eliminates tariffs on exports between the UK and Australia for 15 years, including popular Australian goods such as wine, swimwear, confectionery and meat. While the zero-tariff deal only saves British consumers 7p per bottle of Jacob’s Creek, the government has said it will save British consumers £34m a year (The Guardian).

UK farmers had expressed concern about the deal, since it was announced last month, with fears that Australian beef will flood the market and undercut British meat sales. However, the BBC spoke to Australian farmer, Robert Mackenzie, who said “We believe that our product will just replace some other product that was coming in from the EU. So, I don’t believe any farmer in the UK has anything to worry about”. Furthermore, Scottish secretary Alister Jack has confirmed “there are safeguards built into the trade deal … around the amount of product coming so we don't see the market swamped or dramatic price reductions."

 

Two weeks for UK and EU to settle Northern Ireland Brexit checks

UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost will be virtually meeting with European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič this week to settle the standoff over Northern Ireland Brexit checks. The EU and UK government have until 30 June, when the grace period ends, to break the deadlock. If an agreement is not made, then British chilled meats, including sausages and mincemeat, will be banned from Northern Irish supermarkets.

US national security adviser, Jack Sullivan has commented on the need to protect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, “Any steps that imperil or undermine the Good Friday agreement will not be welcomed by the US”. While president Joe Biden’s affection for Ireland and scepticism surrounding Brexit has hardly been disguised, he has always accepted the British right to leave the EU (The Guardian).

While Mr Šefčovič has warned that the EU’s patience was “wearing very very thin”, Mr Johnson said “I’m very very optimistic about [meeting the deadline]. I think that’s easily doable”.

 

What happened at the G7 summit? 

This week, world leaders gathered in Cornwall for the G7 summit. The G7 (Group of Seven) is an organisation representing the world’s largest advanced economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States). Other non-members also participated in this year’s event, including representatives from Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa, and the European Commission. At the end of the summit a communique was posted, detailing the agreed agenda for global action.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Brexit had occupied a "vanishingly small proportion of our deliberations" over the weekend (Reuters). However, presidents of France and the US, Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden, respectively, both had opinions on the Northern Ireland protocol. Macron told reporters "My wish is that we succeed collectively in putting into action what we signed several months ago, let's not waste time with controversies that are created in corridors and backrooms.", alluding to the current ‘sausage war’. Meanwhile Biden spoke to Johnson ahead of the summit, warning of the delicate nature of the Good Friday Agreement.

There was a focus on the pandemic and vaccine doses, with Boris Johnson pledging 100 million doses going from the UK to the world’s poorest countries. Other leaders also pledged vaccine donations, totalling in 1 billion doses over the next year, which is “another big step towards vaccinating the world”. Furthermore, to prevent future pandemics from ever happening again, a “global pandemic radar” was announced, “which will spot new diseases before they get the chance to spread”.

Climate change was a huge theme in this year’s summit, with leaders promising to “move away from coal plants”, also offering developing countries £2 billion to stop using the fuel. This is part of the group’s promise to channel $100 billion a year to poor nations coping with a heating climate. However, this is a promise G7 have previously made and failed to meet. Tessa Anderson from Action Aid said, “Rich countries have so far failed to deliver on climate finance pledges. The majority of what has been provided so far has been in the form of loans, which are pushing vulnerable countries further into debt and poverty”.

The G7 currently account for 20% of global carbon emissions, however this weekend was said to be the first carbon neutral G7 summit. Other commitments announced include protecting 30% of global land and marine areas for nature by 2030, halving emissions, relative to 2010 recordings, and committing to net zero by no later than 2050.  

The economy was another major topic of discussion, with plans unveiled to advance recovery plans that promote future growth, job creation, investment in infrastructure, and innovation.

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