Resumption of negotiations between London and Brussels

Reprise des négociations entre Londres et Bruxelles

Photo: Francois Lenoir Associated Press
The european negotiator, Michel Barnier

Negotiations post-Brexit between London and Brussels resumed on Tuesday, with little hope of breakthrough, despite pressure from the schedule and the risk of a ” no deal “, after having been slowed down by the pandemic, which mobilizes the energies.

The european negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in a tweet that the week that opens is ” crucial to make tangible progress “.

He had previously called on the British to ” more realism “, in an interview with the World, accusing them of seeking ” a kind of “best of” […] trade agreements ” concluded by the EU in the past, not the counterparties.

“What we cannot accept, what are the demands of the EU that would assign our rights as an independent State. We want an agreement based […] on what the EU has granted to other countries “, reiterated Tuesday the 10 Downing Street.

After three sessions of discussions initiated at the beginning of march, at the rate of one per month, the gap is still wide.

The situation is complicated by the pandemic of COVID-19, which requires hundreds of negotiators from both sides to work through video conferencing, to try to find as expected an agreement by the end of the year.

For Michel Barnier, the new round of talks, which will continue until Friday morning, is expected ” to know if the United Kingdom wants to leave the internal market and the customs union […] with or without agreement with us.”

The week is expected to ” confirm that we are in a stalemate. The positions are very static. A turnaround would be a surprise, ” says a source european.

A summary of the discussions must be prepared in June, during a meeting at the highest level between the president of the european Commission, and Ursula von der Leyen, one of the european Council, Charles Michel, and the british prime minister, Boris Johnson.

“There is not much to expect except maybe a new method” to accelerate the negotiations, according to european sources.

London had made this point to step up a deadline by threatening not to continue the talks if progress was not sufficient. But that was before the shock caused by the pandemic, which has pushed the Old Continent in a historic recession.

No break

For Brussels, the relationship with London after the divorce of 31 January, at the end of 47 years of common life, is passed to the second plan in the face of the urgency of an economic recovery.

“There is not much to expect from these new discussions. But I don’t think the British will go to the rupture in the absence of progress. The situation has totally changed with the virus, “according to the expert, Anand Menon, of the research centre” The UK in a Changing Europe “.

“The real political negotiation — with its choices, its compromise, and, we don’t see it coming before the end of the summer. August, September, October. In view of an agreement in the fall “, provides a diplomatic source.

London, however, must decide before the end of the month of June on a request for postponement of the end of the transition period for a year or two. The british government has ruled out this possibility repeatedly, even if it was the EU who asked for it.

While displaying mutually exclusive positions on the major issues of the negotiation architecture of the agreement (one or more), the conditions of fair competition (on environmental standards, social, tax, what is called the ” level playing field “), the settlement of disputes, rights of access of fishermen in british waters — both parties say they want to find a compromise.

“On the “level playing field”, there is no movement in London and things could so end badly “, warns Mr Barnier.

As to the objective of finding an agreement on the fishing before the 1st July, yet set as a priority by the EU, it now seems abandoned. It has “little chances of fulfilment,” recognizes the diplomatic source.

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