The Brexit agreement would already be closed “by 95%”

The Brexit deal “it can be possible”Even if it has to be approved by the European Parliament in a session between Christmas and New Year. A trade and security agreement “It would be 95 percent complete”, as the negotiators informed the European ambassadors. There are differences in competition, fishing and standards, which can still wreck the negotiation.

An end in the middle of the New Normal. The chief negotiator, the Frenchman Michael Barnier, is isolated because a member of his team tested positive for Covid 19. The negotiations continued digitally with the main protagonists and will continue in the coming days online. He is replaced by the European Commissioner, Ilse Juhanzone.

She told the representatives of the 27 countries in Brussels on Friday that most of the 11 points of the negotiation have “Joint legal texts, with some points of disagreement”, according to a diplomatic source consulted.

The biggest differences

The biggest differences are in competition to avoid distortions, standards and fishing. An emotional point for the French, who want to access with their fishermen what would now be British waters for the sovereign Brexitiers. The British want fishing out of the treaty and the French are fiercely opposed.

The rush is such because times are getting shorter that Juhanzone said that the agreement could not be translated into the 24 languages ​​of the European Union. But the French ambassador insisted that the translation of the agreement in French would be essential “For France to approve the agreement” , “In the name of legal security”.

If the agreement only includes European competences, the consent of the European Parliament is required. But if the process becomes complicated and affects other areas, the approval of national parliaments will be needed.

The Port of Le Havre, in France, prepares its adaptations for Brexit. Photo Bloomberg

If there are no more differences, the agreement provisionally can go into effect on January 1 next, with national parliaments ratifying it later.

But the member states want their deputies to debate the details of the agreement in the next month and a half. Like the British Parliament, to which Boris Johnson pledged.

Parliamentary approval

The European Parliament must give its consent before 31 December. If you don’t, the agreement it should be postponed. An idea that worries Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who with his tremendous health-economic political crisis, can’t face any further Brexit delays and would rather leave without agreement.

But he’s under pressure from US President-elect Joe Biden, who wants to make sure he doesn’t betray the Good Friday agreement for peace in Northern Ireland, on pain that the United States would not sign a free trade agreement with the kingdom.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was shown More optimistic at a press conference. “After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, we have now seen in the last few days better progress, more movement on important issues. This is good, ”he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson restless.  Reuters photo

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson restless. Reuters photo

“Within the framework of equal conditions, progress has been made, for example, on the issue of state aid. But there are still quite a few meters to go. So there is still a lot of work to do. In terms of deadlines, the time pressure is very high without any doubt at the moment ”he explained.

“The entire team is committed and working tirelessly, day and night, to reach the natural deadline: we have to finish before the end of the year“, stressed the president of the European Commission.

The EU “believes that the Brexit deal is 95 percent achieved.” The legal text of a trade deal is now “finalized” in almost all areas, “covering almost all topics”, said a French diplomat.

What about fishing?

Commissioner Juhansone replaced Michael Barnier in the negotiations. He cautioned that problems persist in three well-established areas: fisheries, governance and competition rules, often referred to as “level playing field”.

“On these matters, the UK has not made significant moves,” he said at the meeting. He clarified that “there will be no economic association” without an agreement in these areas.

However, negotiators have been debating a compromise on fisheries, which would see a future review, and a possible amendment to any Brexit deal.

Other areas of disagreement include the provision of health services from the UK to EU workers, family allowances, financial services, access to freight transport and intellectual property.

Fishing, one of the activities on which differences persist.  AFP photo

Fishing, one of the activities on which differences persist. AFP photo

Accelerated trading

Helga Schmid, secretary general of the EU foreign affairs department, was also at the meeting. He told the ambassadors that the UK had shown “a lack of enthusiasm for reaching an agreement on foreign, security and defense policy. ”But he admitted that now he was seeing changes.

Despite these differences, Michael Barnier’s assessment was optimistic: a deal is possible “if the political will exists and the general balance is maintained.”

Juhansone expressed at the meeting that there was “a commitment to find viable solutions” to reach an agreement, and then ratified, in time for the end of the transition period on December 31.

Another proposal being considered is that the European Parliament hold an emergency meeting between Christmas Day and New Years Eve to consent to the agreement.

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