London (dpa) – In the battle for a Brexit trade pact, Britain and the EU are trying to be cautiously optimistic despite immense time constraints.
“I am always hopeful,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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.” The European Union also confirmed its interest in reaching an agreement with the former Member State. There is not much time for that until December 31.
In a phone call on Monday evening, Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to hold a final show of power for a trade pact at a meeting in Brussels at the highest level. When exactly Johnson traveled to the capital of the EU remained unclear at first. “We are ready to try anything,” said the prime minister. The EU has not yet announced a date either.
Germany currently holds the Presidency of the Council in the Union. “We want a deal, but not at any cost,” said European Foreign Minister Michael Roth (SPD). “What we need is political will in London.”
Despite intensive negotiations by the Brexit negotiators over months and two long phone calls between Von der Leyen and Johnson, the breakthrough has not yet been realized. The three other areas in which Von der Leyen and Johnson had identified “significant differences” – fisheries, fair competition and whether the agreements were enforceable – have been the same for months.
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, Johnson now has the perfect setting for the long-awaited breakthrough: Thursday and Friday, EU heads of state or government gather for their final summit this 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. According to London’s will, the Single Market Act would undermine the provisions of the negotiated EU exit agreement, thereby breaking international law – a threatening gesture that caused much outrage.
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.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pointed out the devastating economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic that would hit Britain. ‘We really don’t want two cliffs. You can’t conquer two cliffs at the same time, ‘said the Labor politician. “If I were Boris Johnson I would work really hard to get a deal.”