British and European negotiators are continuing their race against time Monday to reach an agreement on the future of their business relationship, a goal deemed achievable despite the trust imbalance caused by London’s attempt to bypass provisions of the Brexit treaty.
European Commission Vice President Maroš efčovič, British Minister Michael Gove, kicks off the week with a meeting in Brussels.
Discussions center around the controversial bill being considered by the British Parliament, which raises questions about some of the commitments the UK has made in the agreement regarding its exit from the European Union on January 31.
The Europeans, who were upset by this transformation that violated international law, and the British government itself recognized that, gave London until the end of the month to withdraw their project, on pain of legal action.
The bill breaches some of Britain’s obligations, especially customs arrangements and government subsidies for Northern Ireland, which aim to avoid re-establishing physical borders between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union, and the British boycott, which is the primary guarantee for continued peace on the island.
And then, starting Tuesday, negotiators begin a new round of discussions, the ninth since March and the last on the agenda so far, about their future relationship.
According to compatible sources, it is not expected that a breakthrough will occur this week from the discussions in the Belgian capital.
A European diplomat considered that “the path must be determined to reach an agreement,” warning that “if there is no movement, the process will face great difficulty.”
The specter of “no-deal”, which could harm economies already weakened by the emerging coronavirus, will loom over people’s minds once again.
“To be frank, I am not optimistic” about the chances of an agreement, Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin told the free newspaper I Monday that the British bill “has eroded trust” between the two partners.
Markus Bayer, general manager of Business Europe, warned that “we are heading towards an abyss. Moving from full market integration to” without agreement “will have dire consequences for companies.
The trade talks, led by Michel Barnier on the European side and David Frost on the British side, are scheduled to end on Friday, with Thursday’s two-day summit that includes heads of state and government of the European Union in Brussels.
The summit is taking place on a, particularly tight schedule, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving negotiators until October 15, when the European summit in Brussels, to reach an agreement. The Europeans believe that the trade agreement must be reached before the end of October.
The aim is to allow sufficient time to ratify the text, so that it will enter into force on January 1, 2021, that is, by the end of the transition period during which the UK continues to implement European standards.
Talks are stalled over many sensitive issues, including the guarantees requested by the European Union and related to financial, social, and environmental aid, especially government aid, to avoid an unregulated economy and unfair competition on the other side of the channel.
A fishing agreement should also be reached, which would allow Europeans to continue fishing in British waters rich in fish wealth.
An agreement also needs to be found for a future agreement’s “governance” system, in particular how London and Brussels resolve their future trade disputes (and the European Court of Justice’s place in the process).
The British bill has raised concerns among member states, which also intends to conclude a tight agreement as much as possible to avoid any future attempt to circumvent.
A European source clarified that “the intention is to legally set limits on the text,” adding, “I am not sure the British are ready for this …”.