Hours pass and a light appears at the end of the tunnel, which promises to be still very steep. Negotiations between the British and the Europeans have made progress making it possible to see a “narrow path” towards a post-Brexit agreement two weeks before the fateful date of January 1, 2021, even if blockages persist in particular on the hypersensitive subject of the peach.
“There is movement, that’s good,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Monday. The day before, she had decided by mutual agreement with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to continue negotiations, this time without setting a deadline but under the inexorable pressure of the schedule.
Negotiator Michel Barnier reported on the state of the discussions on Monday, noting “some progress” in particular on the conditions of fair competition, but pointed out still significant differences on fishing, a crucial issue for some member states like France , the Netherlands and Spain, according to diplomats.
Three thorny subjects
Michel Barnier considered that it was the “responsibility” of the EU to give “every chance of success” to the talks, while a “no deal” would have serious economic consequences, adding to the shock of the pandemic.
Discussions focus on three thorny topics: access for European fishermen to British waters, how to settle disputes in the future agreement and the terms that Europeans demand from the British to avoid unfair competition. “Any agreement must respect the fact that we are a sovereign country, we are an independent country”, warned the British Minister for Business, Alok Sharma, on Sky News.
On fishing, which the British have made a symbol of their regained sovereignty after the divorce, “serious difficulties persist” and “we are still very far” from a compromise, according to diplomats. “It blocks on all fronts” of this subject, indicated a European source.
The issues that stick are those of boats flying the British flag but owned by Spain or the Netherlands as well as the nationality of the crews on British boats, the same source explained.
VIDEO. Brexit: the concern of the fishermen of Boulogne-sur-Mer
On the conditions of fair competition, demanded of Europeans to offer an agreement in London without tariffs or quotas while protecting the interests of their huge market, progress has been made on the mechanism to be implemented in the event of differences in the areas of environment, labor law, taxation and State aid.
The principle of such a device has been accepted by London but disagreements remain so that it is sufficiently muscular, so that compensation measures can be applied preventively and in the long term, according to European sources.
After months of intensive negotiations, “there could be a narrow path towards an agreement in sight if the negotiators clear the obstacles in the coming days”, indicated a diplomat reporting the remarks of Michel Barnier. “In case of progress on fishing, an agreement would be possible in the coming days”, according to a European source.
“Concretely, I do not think that we will go beyond the coming week, that would not be very reasonable” because there is little time to organize, noted the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune.
Withdrawal from the single market on December 31
French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire estimated that the British would be “the big losers” from Brexit, which will only cut France’s national wealth by 0.1 percentage point in 2021.
While accepting a continuation of the discussions, Boris Johnson once again repeated Sunday that the scenario of a “no deal”, despite its serious consequences, remained for him the “most likely”.
The UK, which officially left the EU on January 31, will abandon the single market and customs union for good on December 31. Without a trade agreement, its trade with the EU will be carried out under the sole rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr