resumption of trade negotiations to avoid a “no deal” with heavy economic consequences

British and European negotiators begin a two-day battle on Sunday 6 December to finally conclude a post-Brexit trade agreement. The stakes are high: to avoid a “no deal” at the end of the year with heavy economic consequences.

The European negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his British counterpart, David Frost, are meeting in Brussels to resume discussions, which were interrupted on Friday for lack of being able to find a compromise after a week in London. “We will see if we can move forward”, said Barnier, in a Tweet which reflects a certain caution on the resumption of talks.

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This “New effort” was decided on Saturday evening by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The two officials will make a new point on Monday evening. Time is running out, as a possible trade agreement will still have to be ratified by the British and European Parliaments before entering into force on 1er January, but negotiations are still stumbling on three subjects.

Possible veto of Paris

Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, welcomed the continuation of the discussions, recalling that it would not accept a deal ” whatever the price “. A commitment intended to reassure Europeans, while tensions appeared this week between the Twenty-Seven, some fearing that the European Union (EU), pushed by Berlin, would grant too large concessions to avoid a “no deal “.

“The British bet of a division of the Union has failed”, however, said the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, in an interview with Sunday newspaper. German Chancellor Angela Merkel “Wants an agreement but also defends our high standards and knows the European market well enough to guess how the German economy would suffer from a bad agreement”, he explained.

He also repeated that in case of agreement ” improper “ to the interests of France, in particular for its fishermen, Paris could put its “veto” on them.

The access of European fishermen to British waters, a hypersensitive subject for some member states, is one of the three points which have blocked discussions since March. Negotiations are also stumbling over how to settle disputes and the competition guarantees demanded by Europeans in exchange for British quota-free and tariff-free access to their large market.

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Risk of another economic shock in the event of a “no deal”

While the Europeans said they wanted the talks to be successful this weekend, this new forty-eight hour streak may not be the last, as the Brexit saga has been so rich in twists and turns. Whatever the outcome on Monday evening, the future relationship with London should in any case be one of the main topics of the European summit which will take place Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

Since the official departure of the United Kingdom on January 31, 2019, London has continued to apply European rules. It is only at the end of this transitional period, on December 31, that it will exit the single market and the customs union.

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In the absence of an agreement, exchanges between London and the EU will take place from 1er January only according to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas, running the risk of a new economic shock in addition to that linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adding still to the tension of the negotiations and to the mistrust of Europeans towards London, a very controversial text made its return Monday before the British deputies: the bill on the internal market.

Despite the fury of Brussels, the Johnson government will reintroduce its provisions deemed problematic by the EU – redacted by the upper house of Parliament – which reserve the possibility of overriding certain provisions of the divorce treaty concluded just a year ago . London assures us that it is a ” security net “, which would no longer have to be in the event of an agreement.

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The World with AFP


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