Negotiations are not making progress: the clock does not tick forever! In the EU there is growing frustration with the British course
London and Brussels have expressed their disappointment at the lack of progress in negotiating an agreement for the post-Brexit transition period. Both sides made accusations after the seventh round of negotiations. The clock is ticking.
The two top diplomats Michel Barnier and David Frost can talk to each other in French and English. But the French and the British cannot communicate in either language.
Even after spending a lot of time together, Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator for a Brexit follow-up agreement, and his British counterpart seem to have little in common – apart from the fact that both were infected with Covid-19 in the meantime.
The same record has been running in London and Brussels since Brexit
Barnier has integrated three English expressions into his polished French: “le fair play” (fair treatment of each other), “il n ‘ya pas de cherry picking” (there is no cherry picking) and: “Brexit means Brexit” (Brexit means Brexit) . The Frenchman has been sounding “like a stuck record” for months, said the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” before the start of the seventh round of negotiations, which again remained unsuccessful.
Now the record is always running backwards. “This week it felt too often as if we were stepping backwards,” admitted Barnier when taking stock of the talks. There has been “no progress at all” on the main issues, only on a few technical issues. “I just don’t understand why we’re wasting precious time,” said the former French Foreign Minister and EU Commissioner, who usually appeared so stoic, frustrated.
Nevertheless it should go on; the next round of negotiations is scheduled for September 7-11 in London.
Probably only smaller individual agreements are conceivable
The chairman of the European Parliament’s trade committee, SPD MP Bernd Lange, has said goodbye to the hope that a comprehensive framework agreement for future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom could still be reached. At most, smaller agreements about internal security and customs regulations are still conceivable. In this respect, the talks are “not completely wasted time”. However, they cast doubts as to the reliability of London as a contractual partner.
CDU man David McAllister, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EU Parliament, warns: “The EU is not interested in a last-minute decision. This is not helpful and possibly very detrimental for both sides. ”Lange sees the consequences for the British in particular as bleak:“ This will lead to a further deindustrialization of Great Britain. ”
Catch quotas for 100 fish species controversial – a problem for many after Brexit
Already now, the island state can throw less economic power than natural resource wealth into the scales: its fishing waters. If they are no longer freely accessible, then “it will be difficult for German and French fishermen,” says Lange.
On the other hand, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leverage on this issue is again not that long: “On the one hand, the British are also interested in Nordic types of fish. And 80 percent of the fish they catch go either directly or as fish products as exports to the EU. “
Barnier and Frost are increasingly finding bones on their plates at their work lunches, after all, there are around 100 species of fish for which London wants to negotiate new catch quotas every year. The EU rejects this as impractical. The list of other problems is also long. For example, as Barnier complained, the British do not want their truck drivers to be subject to the regulations applicable there, including for working hours when driving in the EU.
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London complains about Brussels immobility
Another point of contention are the regulations for state aid for companies. Traditionally, these are not very widespread in Great Britain. However, it takes little imagination to imagine that this could change as a result of the corona consequences. Barnier is extremely observant and adamant about this.
The EU is ready to compete with British companies – but only under fair conditions. “An international agreement has never been reached without both parties committing to common rules,” warns the Frenchman.
His counterpart David Frost, however, accuses the EU of unnecessarily complicating the negotiations. The BBC quoted him as saying that the Union is hindering the negotiations by clinging to state aid and fishing rights without addressing other issues first. The BBC also delivered the assessment from the British negotiating team that Barnier wanted to treat Great Britain as if it were still part of the EU.
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The clock doesn’t tick forever
To be on the safe side, the EU Commission is now reassuring itself in all capitals of the Union about the status of preparations for a hard Brexit at the end of the transition period that will run until December 31st, after which the major consequences of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union will affect both sides actually become noticeable. In order to be able to finalize a comprehensive agreement on damage limitation in good time, an agreement would have to be reached by the end of October.
That is why Barnier ended his press conference on the current state of affairs in the reliable manner of a stuck record with the sentence that has been heard from him for months: “The clock is ticking.”