London (AP) – In the battle over a Brexit trade pact with the European Union, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is showing cautious optimism.
“I am always hopeful,” Johnson said in London on Tuesday. “I have a lot of hope, but I have to be honest: I think the situation is very difficult at the moment.” Cautious signals came from the EU. German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth (SPD) said the success of the negotiations was “still completely uncertain”. Germany currently holds the Presidency of the EU Council.
There should be a contract on December 31st. Despite months of negotiations, no breakthrough has yet been achieved. In a phone call on Monday evening, Johnson and EU Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen agreed to hold a final show of power for a trade pact at a meeting in Brussels. When exactly Johnson traveled to the capital of the EU remained unclear at first. The EU has not yet announced a date either. “We are ready to try anything,” said the prime minister.
Roth said, “We want a deal, but not at any cost. What we need is political will in London. The situation is difficult, also in terms of time, said the SPD politician after consulting his EU colleagues. Maros Sefcovic, European Commission representative, added on the status of the negotiations: “We are still far apart . “
The Brexit negotiators have been negotiating for months. Even two long phone calls between Von der Leyen and Johnson did not yield much. They still see “significant differences” in three areas: fisheries, fair competition and the framework for enforcing the agreements.
The transition phase of Brexit ends on December 31, in which everything has remained the same for Britain despite leaving the EU. If both sides disagree, chaos looms on both sides: miles of borderline traffic jams and empty supermarkets in Britain are just some of the dreaded consequences. Tariffs would put pressure on trade between the continent and the island nation.
This week, after several tight deadlines, could be the perfect setting for Johnson’s long-awaited breakthrough: Thursday and Friday, EU heads of state or government gather for their final summit of the year. Johnson is considered a charismatic person who could achieve in personal conversations what bureaucrats fail. But it takes more than a friendly atmosphere to make a trade pact. Painful concessions are likely to be needed on both sides.
After all, the British government agreed to delete or amend controversial passages in a bill that had caused widespread dissatisfaction in Brussels. By the will of London, the Single Market Act was supposed to undermine the provisions of the negotiated EU exit agreement, thereby violating international law. Deputy Commissioner Sefcovic, who negotiated this with British Foreign Secretary Michael Gove, praised the agreement. “I hope this will give positive impetus to the discussion on the free trade agreement,” he said. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin welcomed London’s turn.
If necessary, the European Commission offered to continue negotiations after December 31, i.e. after the end of the Brexit transition phase and a possible no-deal Brexit. However, Downing Street said the talks should be concluded by the end of the year.
The President of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, called for time to study the text of the treaty. He turned to Johnson and said, “Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to reality. In today’s world there is no national sovereignty. Not even for large countries in Europe. We live in a globalized world. “