Brexit latest: What is going on with Brexit right now?

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Brexit Day was celebrated widely around the country on January 31, but since that time it has become a lesser priority for many as the global coronavirus pandemic became a huge threat to people’s lives and way of life. But as the deadline for a free trade deal draws ever close – what is going on with Brexit right now and how likely is it that a deal will be agreed?

Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016, with 52 percent backing this result.

Four years later and the UK has now formally left the European Union, bringing an end to Britain’s 47-year membership in the bloc.

Currently, the country is in a transition year during which the future terms fo the relationship between the UK and EU is to be decided.

These negotiations will need to conclude in their entirety by December 31, 2020, or the UK will leave with No Deal.

Boris Johnson is reportedly drawing up new legislation which will override the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Northern Ireland.

Sections of the Internal Market Bill, due to be published on Wednesday, will “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas such as Northern Ireland, state aid and customs, according to The Financial Times.

A source told the FT the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland that the prime minister signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border with the Irish Republic.

The FT said this move could risk collapsing trade talks completely.

The PM, however, is expected to announce today that it would be a “good outcome for the UK” if there is no agreement by a European Council meeting on October 15.

A UK government spokesperson has said ministers will always “reserve the right to act in the best interests of Northern Ireland and the UK’s internal market”.

The spokesperson added: “Our top priority is to preserve the huge gains from the peace process”.

The spokesperson said: “As a responsible government, we are considering fall back options in the event this is not achieved to ensure the communities of Northern Ireland are protected.”

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Several political figures including Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have criticised the PM’s plan.

These figures have hailed the move a “treacherous betrayal” enacted by “charlatans”.

Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “If true, this means repudiation by UK govt of a Treaty freely negotiated by it, & described by PM in GE as an ‘oven-ready’ deal. This will significantly increase the likelihood of no deal, and the resulting damage to the economy will be entirely Tory inflicted. What charlatans.

Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party leader Naomi Long tweeted: “Let’s not. Let’s make it clear right now where we stand and the catastrophic consequences of such action now, while there is a chance of influencing how this unfolds. At the very least, if they proceed, they can’t claim the damage it will bring in its wake was not anticipated.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK wants to agree a Brexit deal.

Mr Hancock told LBC the Government would “prefer a Canadian-style agreement with the EU” in trade deal talks.

However, he said the Government is willing to move on if no deal is agreed.

​Environment Secretary George Eustice also admitted there are “legal ambiguities” in the Brexit divorce deal.

Mr Eustice said: “It’s always been the case there could be one or two loose ends.

“The Government has to offer legal certainty to businesses, and the Government has a role to protect the Good Friday Agreement.”

On Monday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier admitted he was “worried” about the chances of striking a free trade deal, saying the UK still wants “the best of both worlds”.

He told France Inter radio: “We demand quite simply, and calmly, and until the end, that the political commitments in the text agreed by Boris Johnson could be legally translated into this treaty.”

Speaking of the customs border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, he added: “The condition of a unified and functioning economy on the island as well as for respecting the integrity of the EU’s single market.”

Mr Barnier said he remains “worried” about negotiations, adding the UK Government wants “the best of two worlds”.

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