Categories: World

Brexit: a “very narrow” path for negotiations


Will the British and Europeans manage to find a post-Brexit agreement? Negotiations will continue on Monday near the months of deadlock in order to avoid a failure with serious economic consequences. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will take stock of these two additional days of discussions that began on Sunday in the evening, a “new effort” which is like a last chance. The outcome of the talks, until late at night from Sunday to Monday, remains uncertain. “It would be premature” to speak of progress at this stage, a European source told Agence France-Presse on Sunday evening. “It is impossible to predict the outcome. The path is very narrow,” said another source close to the discussions.

“My instinct tells me it’s 50/50, I don’t think we can be too optimistic,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on the RTE channel. European negotiator Michel Barnier is due to take stock of the discussions early Monday to the ambassadors of the Twenty-Seven, then to the group of MEPs who are monitoring the file. He had been very cautious at the start of this new streak because of the impossibility since March of finding a compromise between London and the EU. “We will see if we can move forward,” he said. “We will work very hard to get an agreement,” for his part promised his counterpart David Frost, arriving in Brussels on Sunday.

The problem of fishing

Negotiators are working under the inexorable pressure of the timetable as a possible trade agreement – of more than 700 pages – will still have to be ratified by the British and European parliaments before entering into force on January 1. Without forgetting the extreme vigilance of the Member States who hope for an agreement, but are worried about too large concessions to the British. The Irish Prime Minister, whose country will be at the forefront in the event of failure, called on negotiators to show “all possible creativity”

French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, reiterated on Sunday that in the event of an agreement “not in conformity” with the interests of France, in particular for its fishermen, Paris could put its “veto”. In case of “no deal”, “it is better to know it now than at Christmas”, he told the Sunday newspaper. The access of European fishermen to British waters, a hypersensitive subject for some Member States, is among the three points blocking discussions, along with how to settle disputes in the future agreement and the guarantees demanded by the EU in terms of competition in exchange for British access without quota or tariff to its large market. Rumors of advances in fishing on Sunday night were sharply denied by British government sources: “There has been no breakthrough”.

An imminent deadline

On the conditions of fair competition, intended to guarantee convergence in terms of public aid, social or environmental standards, the difficulty is to find a mechanism that respects the sovereignty that the United Kingdom has regained after its divorce while protecting European interests. . Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the Union, recalled that it would not accept an agreement “at any price”.

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations on Monday evening, the future relationship with London should anyway be one of the hot topics of the European summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Since its official departure from the EU on January 31, the United Kingdom has continued to apply European rules. It is only at the end of this transitional period, on December 31, that it will leave the single market and the customs union. In the absence of an agreement, trade between London and the EU will take place from January 1 under the sole rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas, at the risk of a new shock. for economies already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic.