The chances that the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) reach an agreement that allows them to trade without imposing tariffs appeared to disappear today after London said that there is no point in continuing with so far failed negotiations if the community blockade does not change its position. around the most discussed topics.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned today that his country “must prepare” for a sharp break with the EU at the end of the year if there is no “fundamental change” of the bloc in the stalled post-Brexit trade negotiations.
The 27 countries of the bloc “gave up the idea of a free trade agreement, there seems to be no progress on the part of Brussels,” said the premier in a televised speech a day after European leaders again asked London to do concessions.
The UK left the EU on January 31, but both sides agreed to a transition period until the end of this year to give themselves time to reach a free trade agreement.
Johnson had set the deadline for reaching the agreement yesterday, since the pact must be ratified before December 31 by the British Parliament and those of the 27 countries that make up the EU.
The premier insisted today that given that they only have ten weeks to finish the transition period and given the outcome of the negotiations so far, it is likely that “there is no agreement.”
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that her negotiators will also travel to London next week as planned.
But a British government spokesman warned that this “only makes sense” if the EU “is willing to discuss all issues in an expedited manner.”
“As far as we are concerned, the trade talks are over. The EU has finished them and only if the EU fundamentally changes its position will it be worth talking about “, he stressed.
Europeans want to continue fishing as they have done before in rich British waters after the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31, which London considers an unfair demand.
This issue, together with state subsidies to British companies and arbitration systems, is one of the main obstacles that prevents progress in the negotiations, since it affects the economy of countries such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Germany.
“The problem is far from just fishing, it is much more fundamental”French President Emmanuel Macron lamented today.
Despite the willingness to continue negotiating: “we will not sacrifice any interest and we will not sacrifice our fishermen”, the president made “very clear”.
Attempting to qualify, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that both parties should be willing to make concessions to make the agreement possible.
Another point of conflict is a bill promoted by the British Government, which already has half parliamentary approval, which modifies essential clauses of the divorce agreement between the UK and the EU signed last year.
The ‘internal market’ bill would give ministers legal powers to override the application of tariffs and customs controls at the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU.
The clauses on Northern Ireland included in the Withdrawal Agreement establish that that British province will maintain the rules of the European common market to avoid reimposing a border with neighboring Ireland.
Keeping that border open is one of the pillars of the fragile peace that has reigned on the island since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of violence between the pro-British majority and the Northern Irish republican minority who want to join Ireland.
If there is no agreement by January 1, 2021, economic relations between the UK and the EU will be governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
This could have consequences for British companies with activities in the rest of Europe. The blow would also be hard for several EU economies, also currently very affected by the second wave of infections and the imposition of new restrictions.