The outcome of the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union is in the balance, as the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, must choose between accepting concessions or a break, with the risk of a devastating economic shock in the middle of the pandemic.
Forty days remain before December 31, the date on which the post-Brexit transition period will end during which the UK, which officially left the EU on January 31 after the 2016 referendum, will no longer apply European rules.
In this tight schedule, discussions on the future relationship between London and the EU were held back on Thursday by a case of covid-19 in the European team, which forced the European Union negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his British counterpart, David Frost, to end all face-to-face meetings.
Discussions will continue remotely and resume in person “when it is deemed safe to do so,” a spokesman for Boris Johnson said Friday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen showed a bit of optimism on Friday, noting that “progress” has been made in recent days.
But “there is still a lot of work to be done”, he clarified, in particular on the three main blocking points: the guarantees required in London in terms of competition, the access of Europeans to British fish farms and the way to resolve the differences in the future agreement.
Without a trade treaty that regulates their relations, the United Kingdom and the European Union run the risk of a new economic shock, which would be added to that created by the pandemic linked to the new coronavirus.
– In case of “no deal” –
Despite his desire to sever ties with the EU, Boris Johnson must weigh the economic and political consequences of a complete break.
While it claims that the UK will “prosper” whatever happens, the recovery could be twice as slow without a deal compared to what it would be if the UK maintained its current trade relations with the European Union, the audit firm KPMG warned in a study published Wednesday.
In the event of a “no deal” (no deal), gross domestic product (GDP) will increase by 4.4% in 2021, KPMG estimates, compared to 10.1% if the United Kingdom remained in the single market.
If no agreement is reached, UK exporters will also have to go through a lot of administrative formalities and will not have time to prepare.
Politically, although the Europhobic fringe of Conservative MPs would rejoice at a “no deal”, it could also endanger the country’s unity, giving Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon an additional reason to claim the British government. a new referendum on Scottish independence, which voted en masse against Brexit.
In the event of a “no deal”, his party could get even more votes in local elections scheduled for six months from now, making his desire for a new referendum more legitimate.
In another part of the UK, in Northern Ireland, the “no deal” threatens to reignite tensions on the border with the Republic of Ireland.
The controls had been lifted at the end of the riots that Republicans, mostly Catholic, and unionists, mostly Protestant, had faced for three decades until the Good Friday agreement in 1998.