The UK Government has today, 21 August, published a paper on the “Continuity in the Availability of Goods for the EU and the UK“. The paper is available here.

This paper, as with the Customs paper last week, touches on the timing of the negotiations. The paper shows that withdrawal from the EU and future relationship are inextricably linked, but the EU’s reaction has been to reiterate that “sufficient progress” must be made on withdrawal issues.

These proposals should be welcomed as they reduce the risk of a severe “cliff-edge” for goods sold in both the EU and UK. If adopted, the proposals would ensure that goods placed on the market prior to withdrawal can continue to circulate freely between the EU and UK afterwards, and that compliance activities undertaken by manufacturers prior to exit (e.g. inspections, approvals, authorisations, registrations etc.) continue to be recognised as valid in both the EU and UK. The paper does not, however, comment in detail on any specific product-related regimes, and also does not consider the relationship of EU and UK product laws longer term.

It is also positive that Government paper states that services and goods are often linked, and includes included a proposal to discuss and explore this issue further with the EU.

The paper also proposes continued oversight of goods by market surveillance and enforcement authorities from either UK or EU. But there is still the question of enforcement and dispute resolution if authorities’ decisions are challenged – would this be handled by the ECJ? This could be politically unpalatable in the UK.

Finally, whilst these papers set a good start to negotiations, it must be remembered that these are all proposals from the UK side – but to work in practice they need to be part of the bilateral agreement with the EU and therefore need to be negotiated and agreed with the EU. While the EU Commission has published a position paper on the same topic, the UK’s proposals are more detailed and go much further. As with the proposals in the Customs paper, the final outcome is subject to political will and bargaining power on each side of the negotiations – and we are a long way from official talks on the future relationship even beginning, let alone being subsequently agreed with the EU.