Brussels / London (AP) – Shortly before meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission in Brussels, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the way in the fight for a trade pact.
On the issue of fair competition and fishing, the EU currently still holds positions that “no prime minister of this country should accept,” Johnson said in parliament on Wednesday in London. A lot is still possible, but his country will somehow ‘bloom tremendously’.
Johnson and von der Leyen wanted to try to clarify the remaining disputed points during a possible last meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening. According to the British government, dinner should start around 8 p.m. “The Prime Minister will make it clear tonight that he cannot accept anything that affects our ability to rule our laws or our waters,” said a government spokeswoman in London.
Great Britain left the EU at the end of January. There must be a contract by December 31, because then the Brexit transition phase will expire. Despite months of negotiations, no breakthrough has yet been achieved. Should talks fail, there will be tariffs, long border congestion and other trade hurdles around the turn of the year.
A spokesman for the British government was initially unable to say whether there would be a rash immediately after dinner. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British colleague David Frost were also involved in the meeting. “If progress can be made at the political level, Lord Frost and his team could resume talks in the coming days,” said the spokesman.
Chancellor Angela Merkel did not expect a decision on the Brexit trade pact on Wednesday evening. “There is still a chance of an agreement,” said the CDU politician in the Bundestag, but added, “I don’t think we’ll know tomorrow whether it will succeed or not. At least I can’t promise.”
Merkel emphasized that failure was also prepared. “Because one thing is clear: the integrity of the internal market must be preserved.” She sees fair competition at the heart of the negotiations. “This issue of fair competition in diverse legal systems is actually the big question to which we need satisfactory answers.”
For Johnson, the visit to Brussels is the perfect setting for a possible 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. The publicist and historian Helene von Bismarck told the German news agency, “Johnson is a tremendously disruptive factor for EU government leaders.” Brexit will not necessarily be the center of the summit, but Johnson’s journey ensures that the heads of state and government will have to deal with him.
Von Bismarck expects a furious finale to the 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 type who could achieve in personal conversations what bureaucrats fail. “Johnson is a man for the big stage,” said von Bismarck.
According to political scientist Anand Menon of King’s College in London, Johnson hopes the trip to Brussels will bring about a change in the EU mandate. He wanted to be invited by the summit to negotiate directly with the 27 heads of state or government of the EU. Whatever the outcome, Johnson will claim victory for himself, the head of think tank The UK in a Changing Europe told dpa. If it doesn’t work, he blames the EU.
In any case, there was progress: the British government and the European Commission agreed on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol from the Brexit agreement. This largely removes the greatest concern with a no deal. The aim of the protocol is to ensure that there is no hard border between the British Northern Ireland and the EU Member State Republic of Ireland. In this case, the conflict was expected to flare up in the former civil war zone.
On Tuesday, London agreed to delete or amend controversial passages in a bill that had caused widespread discontent in Brussels. By the will of London, the Single Market Act was supposed to quash the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol, thereby violating international law.
In the British press there was talk of an “olive branch” extending Johnson to the EU. The olive branch is considered a symbol of peace. In direct conversation, the experts at Bismarck and Menon see more room for maneuver for Johnson – the prime minister can make a political decision for or against a deal, Von der Leyen is bound by her mandate.