Boris Johnson continues to be the tough negotiator. Last week he declared the Brexit negotiations over, now the U-turn has followed. Insight or tactic?
“Political theater” was what the CSU European MP Manfred Weber called Boris Johnson’s announcement to break off talks on the Brexit trade package. As a theater, you actually have to classify a lot of what is currently going on between the EU and London. With his strategy of maximum demands on the EU, the British Prime Minister poses as a strong man – but has to be careful that his threats do not come to nothing. But the EU will also have to make compromises.
Late last week Johnson declared the negotiations with the EU overif they do not fundamentally rethink their position. A Johnson spokesman became even clearer: “The trade talks are over. The EU has effectively ended them.” Should Brussels not move fundamentally, the team headed by chief negotiator Michel Barnier will not have to bother to come to London.
So much for the theater. In reality, of course, London and Brussels continued to negotiate, even if not initially at the highest level – they did so before Johnson officially announced yesterday, Wednesday, that he would return to the negotiating table. There is no alternative to a trade agreement for either side – regardless of whether it becomes something this year or later.
Australia and Canada are not role models
Johnson repeatedly speaks of a trade agreement with the EU based on the model of Canada or Australia. The former is currently completely unrealistic, the latter just a paraphrase for a no-deal Brexit. The CETA agreement with Canada is highly complex, the negotiations on it took almost six years and it is based on completely different political, economic and geographical conditions than an agreement with Great Britain. And Johnson actually doesn’t want a Canada agreement at all, because there is no duty-free movement of goods in this, which Johnson absolutely wants to negotiate with the EU.
The EU’s agreements with Australia are also unsuitable as a model for future relations between Europe and Great Britain. There is no free trade agreement between the EU and Australia. Both sides have only concluded framework agreements for trade, customs duties are also due here. So when Johnson speaks of a “contract based on the Australian model”, that is only a paraphrase for the situation after a no-deal Brexit, in which both sides largely exchange goods according to the guidelines of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
What hooks up a deal
There are currently three sticking points: On the one hand, there is access for EU fishermen to British waters – for European coastal states such as France this is just as emotional an issue as it is for Great Britain, which finally wants to determine its rich fishing grounds alone. The second central point is the so-called “level playing field”: In return for duty-free access to the internal market, the EU wants the same environmental, social and subsidy standards to protect against dumping. However, Great Britain no longer wants to let the Union talk itself into it and insists on its state sovereignty after leaving the EU. This also applies to point three, the so-called “governance”: The EU demands a reliable mediation instrument in the event that one side deviates from the treaty. So far she’s been biting granite in London. However, Johnson has agreed to abandon his demand for many individual contracts and to negotiate a single large contract – as requested by the EU.
When it comes to fishing rights, Britain only appears to have a trump card. The background to this is a dispute over catch quotas for more than 100 species and the question of whether these quotas should be negotiated annually or in longer periods of time. Without an agreement with the UK, EU fishermen would no longer have access to UK waters. But: Great Britain currently exports around 60 percent of the fish caught in British waters to the EU. Should tariffs be due on the catches, this market could also suffer considerably or even collapse.
How could it go on?
If the EU and Great Britain can return to trusting cooperation, there are around three weeks left to conclude a trade agreement. That is tight, but feasible, especially since both sides want to negotiate around the clock and also on the weekends. Barnier made it clear in a speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday: “I think an agreement is within reach if we on both sides are willing to work constructively and in a spirit of compromise. Our door will remain open until the last day, until the last Day on which it still works. “
A sign from a pro-Brexit protester reading “No Deal Let’s Go WTO” in London: Should there actually be a Brexit without a trade agreement, mutual tariffs would also be due with the WTO rules. (Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth / dpa)
If both sides insist on their maximum demands, there will actually be a Brexit without the future relations between the EU and Great Britain being clarified. Then the rules of the WTO take effect, but they mean high tariffs for both sides.
The EU should also consider an emergency option in the event of a hard Brexit. The commercial contract therefore does not necessarily have to be signed and sealed by the end of the year – if necessary, after a brief, unregulated phase, a contract would come into force with a delay in early January. “It is now being discussed that in the event that an agreement does not succeed by around 10 November, one can accept chaos at the beginning of the year for a few weeks at the beginning of the year and simply continue to negotiate,” said a high-ranking EU member familiar with the talks. Diplomat.
Less theater, more realism
From the British side, however, it was heard that they would not get involved. After a hard Brexit, the WTO rules would first have to be introduced. British diplomatic circles said it was almost impossible that Johnson would negotiate a different solution with the EU during this phase.
There are three decisive and exciting weeks ahead of us, in which it will definitely be decided how the EU and Great Britain will deal with each other from 2021 onwards. For this time one can only wish: Less theater, more realism – on both sides.