Europeans are annoyed by the attitude of the British Prime Minister, who poses the threat of leaving post-Brexit talks.
European leaders, gathered at a summit in Brussels, on Thursday asked the United Kingdom to “do what is necessary” to unblock post-Brexit trade negotiations. This request caused irritation in London. This tension comes at a time when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lets hover the threat of leaving the discussions. He was to pronounce on the subject on Friday, in the light of the “results” of the European summit.
In conclusions adopted Thursday evening, the Twenty-Seven “note with concern that the progress made on key issues of concern to the Union is still not sufficient for an agreement to be reached”. And they demand that London do “whatever is necessary to make an agreement possible”.
Angela Merkel called Thursday evening in Brussels for compromises on both sides to unblock the situation. Faced with the threat of a “no deal”, the German Chancellor, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, declared: “We have asked the United Kingdom to remain open to compromises (…). Of course, this also means that we have to accept compromises ”, even though“ each side has its red lines ”.
Through the voice of its negotiator, David Frost, the United Kingdom said it was “disappointed” by these demands and even “surprised that the EU is no longer committed to working intensively”, in the formal conclusions of the summit. . EU negotiator Michel Barnier then announced at a press conference that he wanted to continue negotiating next week in London, then the following week in Brussels, and “intensively”.
Talks are still stuck on three issues: fisheries, the guarantees demanded of the British in terms of competition, despite recent progress, and how to settle disputes in the future agreement.
Fishing is particularly sensitive for a handful of Member States (France, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands) which want to continue to be able to access British waters, which are full of fish, as they do today. The fishermen “could not be the sacrificed of Brexit”, moreover warned the French President Emmanuel Macron, assuring that Paris was “ready” for a lack of agreement.
Michel Barnier however declared, for the first time, that the EU was open to “a reasonable effort” on the subject, provided that it “preserves the fishing activities of the EU”. “We know very well that we are going to have to make an effort,” he conceded.
Spectrum of a “no deal”
Since the UK officially left the EU on January 31, talks between London and Brussels for a free trade agreement, which would enter into force in early 2021 at the end of the transition period, have been slipping. The two parties accuse each other of letting the risk of a potentially devastating “no deal” for their economies, already weakened by the pandemic.