Boris Johnson asks the British to prepare for a “no deal”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on October 12.

Here is finally the moment of “drama”, a classic at the end of negotiations, especially when they are difficult. On Friday October 16, in a short interview, Boris Johnson claimed that‘In the light of the conclusions of the European Council’, it’s clear that ” the European Union [UE] does not want to grant us a Canada-type trade treaty [le CETA, signé par Bruxelles et Toronto] “.

And the British Prime Minister added: “As we only have ten weeks left [avant la fin de la période de transition et la sortie du marché commun], and that the Europeans refuse to discuss seriously, I concluded that we must prepare the 1er January 2021 to arrangements closer to an Australian agreement », that is to say to a lack of specific trade agreement – Boris Johnson having decided, at the beginning of 2020, to ban the “no deal” from his vocabulary. “At the same time, we will focus on the fight against Covid-19 and ensure that 2021 is a year of recovery and renewal. ”

Important nuance: the British leader, who had demanded, on September 7, that an agreement with the EU be in sight by October 15, did not say that he was going to stop discussing with the 27 member states of the ‘Union. Rather, he returned the ball to them, telling them to move. “If there is a fundamental change in approach, obviously we are always ready to listen. ” Symmetrically, the Europeans had expressed exactly the same demand the day before, demanding that the United Kingdom do “The necessary actions” for the negotiations to succeed.

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Tense national context

Even if they officially deny it, each of the two parties must accept the compromises necessary for an agreement – the terms of which now appear clear in broad outline. The EU must concede the end of the status quo on access to British waters, the fact of “regaining control” over these latter being symbolically considered in London as one of the essential gains of Brexit.

Downing Street, on the other hand, must give more pledges to Brussels, which fears unfair competition from the country, in particular concerning state aid. And accept strict governance rules for the agreement, knowing that Brussels has raised its demands since the publication by London of a bill (the Internet Market Bill), explicitly violating parts of the divorce treaty, yet signed by Boris Johnson at the end of 2019.

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The British Prime Minister’s statement comes amid a very tense national context: It has been nearly a week since Downing Street has tried to impose a partial containment on whole swathes of northern England, where the Covid-19 epidemic gallops again, but the elected officials of Manchester are resisting. Boris Johnson has an interest in being firm on the Brexit front, his strategy to fight the second pandemic wave through regional reconfigurations being contested for the time being.

Will its release have had the desired effect when there are only a handful of weeks left to agree? The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in any case almost immediately reacted on Friday, announcing that the EU negotiators will be in London on Monday, October 19, for “Intensify” the talks. By adding the now very classic “The EU continues to work for an agreement, but not at any cost”.

Macron: “We are stumbling over everything”

Not ready to release the pressure, and faithful to his role of Brexit “bad cop”, Emmanuel Macron said shortly after: “It is the United Kingdom which has the most to lose from a ‘no deal'”, because “He needs access to the European internal market”. The French president again accused London of using “Fishing as a tactical question”. “We are stumbling over everything”, well beyond fishing, he concluded.

An agreement on the post-Brexit trade relationship requires “Efforts, in particular from the United Kingdom”, he hammered. “The problem is far from being just fishing, it is much more fundamental”, he replied to a journalist who asked him if he was prepared for a failure of the EU-London negotiations because of this question.

“You are the victim of informational intoxication, the state of our discussions is not that we are stumbling on fishing”, he continued, “This is a tactical subject used by the British, because in the event of a ‘no deal’ it would be the only subject where Boris Johnson could say: ‘I won'”, he accused. “The Twenty-Seven are not intended to make the Prime Minister of Great Britain happy”, he quipped.

“Our main problem is fair competition rules. Our proposal, which corresponds to our agreement with Switzerland, is access to the single market in return for compliance with our health, environmental, social and state aid rules. The British proposal is access to the single market without respecting the rules. This is unacceptable “, he insisted.

“The negotiations are over if the EU does not change its position”, nevertheless insisted a spokesperson for Downing Street shortly after the Brussels exits.

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