Brexit negotiations: In the EU there is growing suspicion about Boris Johnson’s strategy

In the European Parliament, two Lower Saxony are decisive for the divorce negotiations with the Anglo-Saxons. They do not like what they have experienced so far. Four and a half months have passed since Brexit, and since March there has been “no significant progress” over future relations, David McAllister, former CDU Prime Minister of Lower Saxony and current chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, complains. His Lower Saxony SPD colleague Bernd Lange, chairman of the trade committee of the European Parliament, complains about “that sensible negotiations are currently not possible”.

Hard Brexit without any successor agreement

The British attitude is experienced in Brussels as adamant and ideologically stubborn. And now there is a growing suspicion: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could aim to drive a hard Brexit without any follow-up agreement and then to blame the economic consequences of the Corona crisis. Lange can hardly explain the current deadlocked negotiation situation in any other way: “It is really economically crazy what happens there.”

For the Social Democrats, the crisis meeting between Johnson, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and EU Council President Charles Michel is “the moment of truth”. Johnson had to “put the cards on the table and stop hiding behind bogus negotiations”.

“They can’t eat that much fish and chips at all”

Long CDU colleague McAllister, European politician with British roots, is a little more reserved. But he is also annoyed, for example about the issue of fishing rights. He bitingly comments on the efforts of the British to use their national waters more exclusively: “The English, Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish can’t eat that much fish and chips at all.” For him and Lange, the fisheries question is a good example of the British lagging tactics. They originally intended to renegotiate fishing rights for over 100 species of fish each year.

Lübeck marzipan from Liverpool?

Other key points of the talks include the EU standards for state aid, workers’ rights, environmental issues and the cooperation between the police and the judiciary. Furthermore, London does not want to submit to the authority of the European Court of Justice. One thing counts for the British: sovereignty. After all, they didn’t leave the EU for fun.

A dispute about future British respect for protected European designations of origin appears to be quite bizarre. Lübeck marzipan and Nuremberg grilled sausages may not soon be protected from imitation on the island, trade expert Lange said.

400 negotiators stir in the tough bargaining chip

There is also great resentment over London because the British government appears to be withdrawing from the political declaration that formed the basis of the Brexit deal reached last year. The EU has based its negotiating position on this and adopted entire passages of the declaration almost word for word. But in previous rounds of negotiations, involving a total of up to 400 representatives from both sides, British negotiators wanted the declaration signed by their country to be much less binding.

The CSU financial expert in the European Parliament, Markus Ferber, therefore judges: “You are getting the impression that the British are working towards a burst of negotiations. But the UK cannot really afford that. ”

“Die-hard stubbornness”

Almost half of UK exports go to the EU, but the reverse is less than ten percent. If there is no agreement on the structure of trade relations after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 of this year, the then threatened tariffs would disproportionately hit the British economy than the rest of Europe.

Patience is running out not only in Brussels. For example, the Hessian Minister of Europe Lucia Puttrich pointed out that a still unsuccessful hanging game would “do more harm than good” to the financial center Frankfurt am Main. Puttrich demands: “If no results are achieved by summer, the European Union should be consistent and break off the negotiations.” One cannot tackle “die-hard stubbornness” with offers for discussions.

Last attempt at the highest level

So maybe the last attempt at the highest level for a happy ending to the never-ending Brexit story. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is ready to press the tube. An accelerated schedule is ready. Every result of the video crisis round between Johnson and the EU grandees would have to be covered in detail by the autumn. Because parliamentary approval is still required, including in the European Parliament.

Read also: Demand for more “Made in Germany” has catches: Why we need global supply chains

Crucial figures such as Lange and McAllister flex their muscles there. Your committees agreed on a joint draft resolution on Brexit, which the EU Parliament should adopt this week. Lange emphasizes that Parliament will reject any trade agreement that does not contain binding guarantees for fair competition and fair trade. And sends the message across the English Channel: “Those who are no longer members of the EU cannot have the same rights. The time of the wish concerts is over. “

EU Parliament debates EU negotiations with Britain

Negotiations for an EU trade agreement with Britain will be discussed in the European Parliament on Wednesday. EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and EU negotiator Michel Barnier are also expected to take part in the debate in the plenary session in Brussels. MEPs will then vote on Thursday on a resolution affirming the EU’s line of negotiations.

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