The European Union’s main Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Tuesday (13) that negotiations with the United Kingdom for an agreement on the post-divorce relationship will still last “weeks”, despite the race against time. .
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that if the negotiations fail to reach an agreement on October 15, his government will prepare for a complete breakdown of the negotiations to define how the relationship between the parties will be. after December 31st.
The EU has scheduled a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, which will discuss the negotiation with London as a critical point on the agenda.
The United Kingdom withdrew from the EU on 31 January this year, but continues to apply European trade rules until 31 December, in the so-called transition period.
Any agreement to define what the relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom will look like from January should be sealed in October, to allow time for it to be ratified by all parties.
However, in a message on Twitter, Barnier appeared to pour a bucket of cold water, saying the parties would still hold negotiations for “weeks”.
“The EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks,” wrote Barnier.
In London, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told parliament he was confident of a deal, but reiterated Britain’s call for “pragmatism” to Europeans.
“I am hopeful that we can close the gap, but ultimately it will require the same goodwill, the same pragmatism, the same flexibility on the part of the EU as in the UK,” he noted.
In turn, a source close to the government warned Brussels that the tactic of extending negotiations to the maximum would not obtain concessions from London.
Europeans “assume that the UK would be more willing to compromise the longer the process dragged on,” he criticized.
Meanwhile, during a meeting in Luxembourg, European ministers estimated that trade negotiations for the post-Brexit relationship had reached a “very critical state”.
“We are under extreme pressure. Time is running out,” said German Deputy Minister for European Affairs, Michael Roth.
“We expect substantial progress from our friends in the UK in key areas, in particular the management of the future agreement, equal competition and fishing,” he said.
These are the three central themes of the negotiations between London and Brussels, which started last March.
Roth said that European ministers outlined scenarios with or without an agreement with London.
“We are prepared for both scenarios”, he guaranteed, adding that “everyone should know that the lack of agreement is the worst scenario, not only for the EU, but also for the United Kingdom”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that the lack of agreement between the EU and the UK on their future relations is a “very credible” prospect.
“As it stands now, the ‘no-deal’ hypothesis is very credible, unfortunately plausible today,” he said.
Johnson had a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday (10) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday (11).