Brussels / London (dpa) – In the fight for a Brexit trade pact between Britain and the EU, both sides are betting on a “dinner for two”.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the British Prime Minister want to try Wednesday evening (today) at what may be the last meeting on an agreement to clarify the remaining disputed points.
Both sides still see “significant differences” in three areas: fisheries, fair competition and the framework for enforcing the agreements. There should be a contract on December 31st. Despite months of negotiations, no breakthrough has yet been achieved.
The chairman of the PGI foreign trade association, Anton Börner, warned that the EU should remain nervous, especially when it comes to competition. “It should not be the case that a country says that I am leaving the internal market, but wants to continue to enjoy all the benefits of the internal market,” said Börner of the “Rheinische Post” (Wednesday). “I say to the EU address: stay hard, stay hard, stay hard, don’t budge.” If the United Kingdom broke down, problems with Hungary, Poland or Italy would follow.
The FDP in the Bundestag called on the federal government to immediately submit an emergency plan in case negotiations between Johnson and von der Leyen fail. Both Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) would have the opportunity to do so in the budget debate on Wednesday, said FDP foreign policy expert Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of the German news agency in Berlin. The government must create clarity for citizens, governments and businesses as soon as possible.
For Johnson, the meeting in Brussels is the perfect setting for an agreement after a number of deadlines have passed: EU heads of state or government will meet next Thursday and Friday for their final summit of the year. “Johnson is a huge disruptive factor for EU government leaders,” said DPA journalist and historian Helene von Bismarck. Brexit will not necessarily be the focus of the summit of their meeting, but with his trip to Brussels, Johnson ensures that the heads of state and government have to deal with him.
Von Bismarck expects a furious final of the Brexit talks. “It’s not impossible that it ends in one fell swoop,” she said. “The idea of the last minute meeting, the drama, was always planned by Johnson.” The prime minister is considered a charismatic person who, in personal conversation, could achieve what bureaucrats fail. “Johnson is a man for the big stage,” said von Bismarck.
Johnson was cautiously optimistic on Tuesday. “I have a lot of hope, but I have to be honest: I think the situation is very difficult at the moment.” Limited signals also came from the EU and the EU Commission. German State Minister for Europe Michael Roth called for the political will to reach an agreement in London, while European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic stressed: “We are still far apart.”
At least on Tuesday, progress was made: 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.
In the British press, there was talk of an “olive branch” that Johnson’s government extended towards the EU. The olive branch is considered a symbol of peace. Bismarck’s expert doesn’t believe his visit to von der Leyen is just a show. Johnson would have accepted a no-deal Brexit, but it was not his goal, she said. In direct conversation, the expert even sees minor benefits for Johnson. “He can make a political decision for or against a deal, Von der Leyen is bound by her mandate.”