British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that his country “must prepare” for a sharp break with the EU at the end of the year if there is no “fundamental change” from 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 does not seem to be any progress on the part of Brussels,” the premier said 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 on Thursday, 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 yesterday that, given that they only have ten weeks until the transition period ends, and given the result of the negotiations so far, it is likely that “there will be 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 stressed 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 ended 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 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 preventing 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 being just fishing, it is much broader,” French President Emmanuel Macron lamented yesterday.
Despite the willingness to continue negotiating, he remarked: “We will not sacrifice any interest and we will not sacrifice our fishermen,” the president made “very clear.”
Trying to clarify, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that both parties should be willing to make concessions for the agreement to be 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 United Kingdom 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.