The EU remains firm but open to continue negotiating with the UK

Correspondent in Brussels

Updated:17/10/2020 01:14h

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Determined as they are to avoid any handle so that they could be reproached for having abandoned the negotiations, the team of European representatives with Michel barnier He intends to go to London next week despite the statements of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, taking for granted that it will not be possible to close an agreement before January 1. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced yesterday that European negotiators will travel to the British capital “as planned.” ‘The EU continues to work for an agreement, but not at any price. As planned, our negotiating team will travel to London next week to intensify these negotiations, “Von der Leyen said on social media.

Barnier had indicated on Thursday night, when he reported to the heads of state or government meeting in Brussels about his efforts, that he was willing to travel to london even this weekend to try to avoid a “no deal” at the end of the year, when the UK will disconnect from the EU and stop applying EU law.

The set of European leaders listened Johnson’s words on British television in the whirlwind of the end of the European Council meeting, but even many had time to make it clear that if it is a way of putting pressure on them, it has not been very successful. He French President, Emmanuel Macron, He said it is up to London to make “efforts” if it wants to get a free trade agreement with the EU after January 1. “It was the United Kingdom that wanted to leave the EU” and London was “even more in need of an agreement than we do.” And in particular at the moment “we are stuck in everything and not just in fishing.” Talks between London and Brussels continue to stumble over three issues: Europeans’ access to fish-rich British waters, the guarantees required in London in terms of competition – despite recent progress – and how to resolve disputes in the future. agreement. In addition, the EU insists that London must fulfill its commitment with Northern Ireland in the separation agreement.

Everything is possible

Somewhat more pragmatic, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, affirmed that at this point everything is possible, even the non-agreement. «Our will is to continue working to achieve it. But time is short and we have to prepare in case it doesn’t come out. According to Merkel, “no one, not the EU or London, can want a deal at any price. For this reason, we must prepare for something that we cannot wish, neither the EU nor London, such as a no-deal exit.

The idea of ​​that abrupt disconnection horrifies indeed to many industries, which had thrived for the past forty years in an atmosphere of total symbiosis with the United Kingdom. To cite one example, many “made” cars in Germany contain hundreds of parts that have made up to five times the journey between the two banks of the English Channel during the engine building process. If there is no agreement on January 1, these goods will be processed as if they came from a strange country with which there are no trade rules, that is, they will require customs controls and payment of duties, which is totally absurd in terms of competitiveness.

The fishing issue It may end up being the most decisive factor because it would allow Johnson to save face in a more graphic way, also taking into account that the coastal regions voted en masse for Brexit. In Europe, this issue is of particular concern to France, whose fishermen would find themselves locked up in its ports and Spain, which would suffer doubly, because fishermen would not be able to fish in those waters and Spanish shipowners, who once bought British-flagged vessels, They could therefore not sell their catches on the European market.

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