Unsolved problems are piling up three months before the end of the transition period. Both sides play poker until the very last minute. The moment of truth has come for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: does he just have good nerves or does he really want his head through the wall?
The Slovak Maros Sefcovic apparently makes modest demands on earthly happiness. The Vice President of the European Commission said he was “happy” to be able to provide information about the Brexit in Brussels at the beginning of the week. He had nothing more to say than “serious concerns”.
London “far from what the EU can accept”
In the discussions about the interpretation of the currently valid transitional rules, problems arose again, this time about the future status of EU citizens who are permanently in the UK. The position of London was “far removed from what the EU can accept”, Sefcovic had to sum up.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of the ninth and nominally last round of negotiations on the future relationship between the European Union and its ex-member Great Britain, the EU side ventured cautiously optimism. Under no circumstances, Sefcovic also announced, would the negotiations be broken off. They continue to span a large number of areas of conflict: competition rules, fishing rights, trade relations, cooperation on security issues, energy policy, road and air transport, freedom of movement and social security.
Can Johnson Still Be Trusted?
After months of talks, the number of unresolved questions is so great that the suspicion arose in Brussels that Johnson was completely off the mark. He also provoked the EU with a draft law on the British internal market, which tore out pegs that had already been struck, even according to the British interpretation, came dangerously close to a breach of international law.
Since then, according to EU representatives, it has been a question of whether London can still be trusted. They are puzzling over whether Johnson deliberately wanted to break off the talks in order to then blame the EU for a hard Brexit with all its consequences. Despite all the provocations, they don’t want to do him the favor.
“Drama, threatening gestures, theatrics”
“Drama, threatening gestures and theatrics,” accused the newspaper “Irish Times” of the island neighbor. One wonders: What would William Skakespeare, a recognized expert on tragic breakups, come up with about Brexit?
“Much ado about nothing” is not, after all, it is about billions of dollars, the future of the British and European economy, the fate of millions of people who fear for their rights of residence, and finally the continued existence of the United Kingdom as such in its current form .
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The prime minister is playing hard and is under pressure at home, even in his own Tory party. His corona management is controversial. The UK economy is facing a hard winter. The London financial center is already suffering from emaciation. The threat of a new independence referendum by the Scots is still in the room. The peace in Northern Ireland could become fragile.
Truly a material for a royal drama in which Prime Minister Johnson plays the villain role for Brussels. And to which a quote from “Hamlet” could fit: “If this is madness, it has a method.” At least when Johnson’s previous attitude was only an attitude, in order to ultimately get the maximum amount of EU concessions.
Movement on both sides – but not enough
“It is clear that we have signaled that we are approaching the British,” said the chairman of the EU Parliament’s trade committee, Bernd Lange (SPD), describing the negotiations. The interlocutors from the island had also “moved a little on a few small points”.
Langes MP David McAllister (CDU), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, also sees topics on which nothing has happened yet: “In fisheries policy, sustainable, balanced and long-term regulations are needed that regulate access to British waters secure for European fishermen. Unfortunately, the British government has not yet made any new proposals to find fair solutions. “
No light at the end of the tunnel yet – not even under the English Channel
Nevertheless, Lange, who has already expressed himself more skeptically, considers an agreement “not entirely out of the question”. If the much-vaunted “light at the end of the tunnel” can be seen at the end of this week, the negotiations will certainly be extended by another two weeks that can be used intensively. McAllister does not see the talks at the end either, but in a “very decisive phase”.
Incidentally, this also includes negotiations on the actually existing tunnel under the English Channel. Brexit makes it necessary to clarify how the security of its operations is to be monitored in the future. An intergovernmental commission set up by France and the United Kingdom in 1986 is currently responsible for this.