Brussels has decided to give the British Government of Boris Johnson a new opportunity to realize its plans for an orderly exit of the United Kingdom from the EU on October 31. The hopes of reaching an agreement are minimal in the community capital. But the European institutions have decided to grant a few more days to see if London comes up with a Brexit formula that contains Brussels, Dublin, Northern Ireland and the British Parliament.
Technical negotiations have resumed this Friday in Brussels. And the European chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has held a working breakfast in the community capital with the British secretary of Brexit, Steve Barclay. The quotation has been described by both parties as "constructive." And it marks the beginning of a new and intense round of negotiation with the European Council of October 17 and 18 as a goal.
“The European Union and the United Kingdom have agreed to intensify negotiations over the next few days,” said the European Commission after Barnier informed the representatives of the 27 EU partners about his contacts with London.
Diplomatic sources point, after listening to Barnier, that it is still early to determine the chances of success of the new round of negotiation. Neither London nor Brussels have specified the changes that the Johnson Government is willing to introduce in its Brexit offer at the beginning of the month. That offer was rejected by the EU, considering that it did not guarantee the absence of a hard border in Ireland, and put the negotiations on the verge of collapse.
Optimism had resurfaced this Thursday, after a meeting between Johnson and the Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar. That appointment revived the possibilities of finding a solution to the controversial point of the border between the two parts of Ireland, one of the main problems to agree on Brexit.
"I have received promising signs of taoiseach [primer ministro irlandés]"The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said on Friday." For the first time, Varadkar and Johnson see a path to the agreement, "added the president of the Council.
The European Union had allowed until Friday for the British Government to submit a "feasible" proposal to reach an agreement on Brexit at the European summit next week. But after the meeting of Johnson and Varadkar, he has chosen to extend that period and has been willing to wait a few more days. Even so, diplomatic sources practically rule out the possibility of an agreement next week and already point to a new appointment at the end of the month, around October 27.
"A week ago I told Prime Minister Johnson that if there was no proposal today, I would publicly announce that, for objective reasons, there would be no possibility of reaching an agreement at the next European Council," Tusk said Friday from Cyprus, Where is official visit.
Brussels is now granted until Monday to determine whether the dialogue can lead to an agreement. In the absence of details on the new negotiating base, some sources point out that London would have been willing to allow Northern Ireland to remain in the European customs union after Brexit. A possibility that was already raised by the EU in early 2018 and considered completely unacceptable by the then British Prime Minister, Theresa May. "No prime minister will ever accept that," May said.
Johnson's new offer could also waive Northern Ireland's veto right over future agreements to avoid the border, a possibility that the prime minister incorporated into his proposal this month.
Neither party has confirmed the details of the proposal and they have not denied the interpretations that circulate. Both parties prefer to wait for the outcome of the negotiations throughout the weekend before making assessments. "The Commission will take stock on Monday with the European Parliament and with the Member States," said the community body.
"We continue to work for an agreement, and when there is a will, there is a way to achieve it. If not, there would be no people working on it," said the official spokeswoman for the European Commission. The president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, insisted on Wednesday before the European Parliament: "Personally, I do not exclude that there is an agreement."
Optimism in the European capital, however, is scarce. And the little time available (20 days left for the Brexit term) complicates the negotiation. But Brussels wants to rush until the last moment in case an unexpected solution is found. "You have to take advantage of even the slightest opportunity," Tusk has coined through Twitter. "A non-agreement will never be the choice of the EU," concludes the president of the Council.
If the pact is not achieved, Brussels could contemplate a third extension of Brexit (initially scheduled for March 29, 2019) with the aim of producing a "political movement" in London that will allow the passage of the agreement in Parliament . The most anticipated departure is a new general election.
The current British Prime Minister, however, has assured time and again that he does not want to request the extension. A commitment that, if fulfilled, would lead to a Brexit without agreement if London does not offer before October 31 a viable solution to the conflict over the Irish border.