The Summit of Heads of State and Government of the 27 held this Thursday and Friday in Brussels was the scheduled time to sign the new trade agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom. The pact to remain friends after the divorce. The transition period of brexit ends December 31 and it takes time for parliamentary ratification. Instead, the EU notes “with concern” the lack of “sufficient progress”, as reflected in the conclusions of the meeting.

Finally, the European Council has only served to get leaders to tighten the nuts on Boris johnson. They demand that relax your negotiating position and put concessions on the table for the EU. A turn that must come right now, because time is running out. Otherwise, a chaotic exit of the United Kingdom from the internal market and the customs union will be inevitable, which would exacerbate the Covid-19 crisis, but will have a greater impact in London than in the EU, the Europeans insist.

No to a deal at any priceThat is the slogan that the majority of European leaders have repeated in Brussels: Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Charles Michel or Ursula von der Leyen. An insistence that sounded like argumentation. “In the brexitWe want an agreement but not at any price, it must be beneficial for both parties, “said the Chancellor.” We want an agreement, but not at any price, “the president of the Commission has repeated in almost the same words.

During the closed-door debate, the Heads of State and Government reiterated their full support for the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, a thousand times questioned by the British, who repeatedly filter that he will be removed from the talks. They have also agreed that they will maintain a united front despite attempts by London to divide them, according to diplomatic sources.

The message coming out of the summit is that the EU wants to continue negotiating and would prefer there to be an agreement before the end of this October. However, the leaders ask the Commission to prepare for the worst case scenario as well.

The European Council conclusions have “disappointed” the British Government. Johnson’s negotiator, David frost, has declared “surprised” by the fact that the European leaders have not put the emphasis in intensifying the negotiations. “I am also surprised that it is suggested that in order to reach an agreement all future assignments must come from the UK. It is a peculiar way of negotiating, “he said on Twitter. The British prime minister will announce this Friday whether he is willing to keep trying or break the deck.

What is clear is that if he wants a trade pact, Johnson has to deal with the three problems that currently concern Brussels most. In the first place, the continuity of the Community fleet’s access to British territorial waters. In the case of Spain, there are 88 ships that employ 2,150 crew members and they generate around 10,000 indirect jobs, as well as another 55 ships of Spanish capital, according to data from the sector.

Ursula von der Leyen has hastily left the summit upon being informed that a member of her team has Covid


The second cause for concern in the EU is the risk that London will dope public aid to British companies to compete with advantage with EU companies. Finally, Brussels claims a robust dispute resolution mechanism that allows the United Kingdom to be quickly sanctioned in case of non-compliance. For example, in cases with Johnson’s home market law, which bypasses the divorce settlement in relation to Northern Ireland.

In no case will our fishermen be the ones slaughtered by the brexit. Preserving our fishermen’s access to British waters and achieving a good compromise for our fishermen – from all affected EU countries, including France – is an important point of this discussion for us “, explained the French president, who has flagged the hardest line this Thursday.

Macron also demands “a level playing field between the UK and the EU.” “In other words, ensuring that we are on the same playing field when it comes to public aid and social and environmental rules. The consequence of brexit can not be create dumping environmental or social in our borders“, the French president has warned.

David Sassoli greets Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel during Thursday's summit

David Sassoli greets Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel during Thursday’s summit

Yves Herman / Reuters

“I will be clear. The agreement cannot be at any price. If these conditions are not met, we may not have an agreement. If the appropriate terms are not found at the end of the discussion, we are prepared for a non-agreement on future relations, “Macron maintains.

“The divorce proceedings are finished on December 31. But with the twists that we have seen in recent times from the British, even at the legislative level, we don’t know how this is going to continue“complained the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel.

Among the few who have left the script was Pedro Sánchez. The Prime Minister has emphasized his preference for a pact with London. “For Spain, this agreement is fundamental, not only because of the historical relationship we have with the United Kingdom, but also because of the commercial and economic interests that both countries share,” he said.

Pedro Sánchez greets Belgian Alexander de Croo at this Thursday's summit

Pedro Sánchez greets Belgian Alexander de Croo at this Thursday’s summit


Sánchez still hopes that “that during these weeks we can achieve that agreement that gives certainty, that gives confidence, in a time as difficult as the one the world is going through as a consequence again of the emergency in this second wave of the Covid pandemic “.

“The UK has a huge economic and geopolitical interest. The EU has a huge economic and geopolitical interest. How is it possible that they will not reach an agreement? This is too important,” said the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. The final answer will be known in a matter of days.