The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and entered into a transition (or implementation) period until the end of 2020.
The Withdrawal Agreement was formally agreed on 29 January just as coronavirus was starting to emerge as a major threat to life, health and the economy.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 gives force, within the domestic legal systems of the UK, to the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Withdrawal Agreement
(binding in international law) was accompanied by the Political Declaration. Both documents may be read HERE. The Poltical Declaration is not binding in international law but it establishes the key parameters of the envisaged partnership between the EU and the UK.
The transition period ends on 31 December 2020 - Article 126 of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Art.132 provided for a possible extension of the transition the period for "up to 1 or 2 years" and placed the extension in the hands of the "Joint Committee." Extension had to be sought by the end of June 2020.
Details of meetings held by the EU-EK Joint and Specialised Committees are published by the European Commission. A Joint Committee meeting held on 12 June confirmed that the UK will not be seeking an extension to the transition period. The EU and UK agreed on "accelerating the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement" and the Joint Committee will meet again in early September.
The present UK (Conservative) government was formed after the December 2019 general election and set its face against any extension of the transition period. Section 33 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 inserted section 15A into the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 -
"A Minister of the Crown may not agree in the Joint Committee to an extension of the implementation period."
This is now presented as "the will of Parliament" but, in reality, it was secured by the government when the withdrawal agreement bill was proceeding through Parliament.
The stubborn insistence in not seeking extension to the transition period made no obvious good sense given the impact of coronavirus (and associated restrictions) on the UK economy - see e.g. The Guardian - UK economy to shrink by 8% in 2020. The CBI has warned that Firms can't cope with no deal and virus - BBC News 11 June.
The Leader of the Opposition (Sir Keir Starmer) did not place any political pressure on the government to seek an extension. On the face of it this could be a mistake but the possible reasons are discussed by Professor Tim Bale in this article published by UK and EU. Professor Chris Grey states on his Brexit Blog that this "... may well come back to haunt Labour to have been – through silence – complicit in non-extension."
The Preamble to the Withdrawal Agreement states - "CONSIDERING that there is a need for both the United Kingdom and the Union to take all necessary steps to begin as soon as possible from the date of entry into force of this Agreement, the formal negotiations of one or several agreements governing their future relationship with a view to ensuring that, to the extent possible, those agreements apply from the end of the transition period."
A useful article, which is updated frequently, is Alasdair Sandford at Euronews - Post-Brexit Guide: Where are we now - and how did we get here?
A number of "rounds" have already been held in the talks. Links will be added below as the talks progress.
Update 25 June:
European Council - EU - UK negotiations on the future relationship
Update 4 July:
The Guardian 2 July - EU-EK trade talks break up early over 'serious' disagreements
Update 22 July:
The Telegraph - Britain close to abandoning hope of Brexit trade deal
Update 25 July:
The Guardian - Germany calls on UK to show more realism in Brexit negotiations
Update 11 August:
The London Economic (16 June) - Brexit set to cost the UK more than £200 billion by the end of the year
Update 20 August:
UK in a Changing Europe - Latest on the UK EU negotiations
House of Commons Library - UK-EU future relatonship negotiations update: is an agreement possible?
Update 22 August:
Position after Round 7 completed - EU-UK negotiations - including Press statement by Michel Barnier following the third round of future relationship negotiations with the UK, 21 August 2020