After three rounds of negotiations (the last two by videoconference) on the commercial agreement that should govern their relations after the brexit, the European Union and United Kingdom they only agree on one thing: dialogue has come to a standstill. Although Boris Johnson continues to refuse to request an extension of the transition, which expires on December 31, there is no tangible progress.
On the contrary, the blockade in the talks has triggered the tension between Brussels and London. The community negotiator, Michel Barnier, accuses the United Kingdom of wanting “the best of both worlds”: the advantages of the Union but without the obligations that come with being a member of the club. His British counterpart, David Frost, replies that it is his obsession with an “ideological approach” that prevents any progress.
“I regret that we have made very little progress towards an agreement on the most important pending issues,” Frost said Friday after the conclusion of the third round of dialogue. “With the exception of some modest openings, we have failed to make progress on the most difficult issues“agrees the EU negotiator.
The main stumbling block in the dialogue is that Brussels requires London to keep your social, environmental, competition and public aid standards aligned with EU rules even after the brexit economic. The aim is to prevent trade distortions and unjustified competitive advantages for British companies. The great fear of the EU is that Johnson turns the UK into a tax haven, a Singapore on the banks of the Thames.
“Why should we help British companies provide their services in the EU without any guarantee of fair economic competition?” Barnier complains.
The British negotiator replies that accepting this requirement would mean that the United Kingdom would be permanently tied to EU legislation and standards and therefore could not regain its full sovereignty, which is the ultimate end of brexit. “As soon as the EU recognizes that we are not going to conclude an agreement on this basis, we will be able to move forward,” said Frost.
The problem of fishing
The other big problem from the start is fishing. Neither side has relaxed its position. The EU calls on the UK to guarantee your fleets, including Spanish vessels, the right to continue fishing in British territorial waters in the same conditions as today. But the Johnson government has made it a priority to regain control of its waters and wants to negotiate quotas year by year.
“Our Member States have made this very clear: without guarantees of fair competition and without an agreement on fisheries, there will be no economic and commercial association agreement with the United Kingdom,” insists the EU negotiator.
“This is not an opportunity for the United Kingdom to choose and retain the most attractive elements of the internal market. To make progress in this negotiation, The UK will have to be more realistic, it will have to overcome this misunderstanding, and it will undoubtedly have to change its strategy. You can’t have the best of both worlds, “said Barnier.
“It is difficult to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach that makes it more difficult to find a mutually beneficial agreement,” Frost counters.
The hour of truth is approaching. The fourth round of trading is scheduled for the week of June 1. Then there has to be a summit between the EU and the UK to take stock of the dialogue. Johnson has threatened to leave the table if there is no tangible progress to glimpse a deal.
“Lack of progress is extremely worrying“warns the spokesman for the Socialists for the brexit in the Eurochamber, Pedro Silva Pereira. “It is still possible to avoid a chaotic scenario of disagreement at the end of the year, but for that the United Kingdom must accept to negotiate and show political will,” he says.