August 8, 2020

Six months to give a final boost to the “postbrexit” agreement



The United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) are preparing to intensify their talks on Monday with the aim of forging a trade agreement before December 31.

This is a last impulse that comes after four months of unsuccessful technical negotiations and with a very tight schedule due to the refusal of the British Government to extend the Brexit transition period.

The meetings will resume in person on June 29 in the British capital and will extend weekly, either as full rounds or shorter appointments, until July 27 in London or Brussels. For August, a negotiating round is expected in the Belgian capital between the 17th and 21st.

Although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may request to extend the transition before July 1 for a period of one or two years under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, he will not do so, leaving a period of six months to close a type of pact that usually takes several years.

“The UK could have asked for it (an extension) and has consistently refused to do so. In reality, it was a commitment that the Conservatives carried in their manifesto and which was later consecrated in 2020 with the law on the Withdrawal Agreement, ”Catherine Barnard, professor of Community Law at the University of Cambridge, told Efe.

The “premier” made his rejection official at the conference he held in the middle of the month with the presidents of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, of the European Council, Charles Michel, and of Parliament, David Sassoli, during which the lack of progress in the four rounds of talks that both parties have held since March.

Among the most difficult points: access to the UK’s fishing waters; the “level playing field”, which refers to the norms and standards that the EU expects British companies to follow so that they do not operate with competitive advantages, and the desire to Brussels to tie all aspects of the future relationship between London and Brussels in a single law.

“There are quite a few possibilities for a Brexit without a trade agreement. But I think the UK wants to leave with some kind of treaty, “said Barnard.

According to the professor, the times point that the agreement will go in the direction of a “minimum agreement”, less ambitious of the “zero tariffs, zero quotas” that both parties expected at the beginning of the dialogue and that it will leave other details and essential aspects such as services for later.

Such a commitment would serve to avoid reaching the end of the year without any trade agreement, where a non-agreement would be equivalent to negotiating under the generic rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which would imply the application of tariffs to many exports.

“I always thought it was extremely unlikely that we could dream of getting a good deal. Partly because of the asymmetry of profit and loss, because we have much more to lose than to gain compared to the EU, ”said Tim Besley, an economist and professor at the London School of Economis (LSE) at an institution conference on the impact of coronavirus on Brexit and the economy.

“But the most important thing is that the EU has to treat us badly to avoid prospects for future exits,” he added.

For now, the EU Council on Thursday called on the Member States, the Union institutions and all parties to “step up their work” on preparing at all levels for “all results”, including that of that there is no agreement.

A COMPLICATED RATIFICATION

While Johnson believes that an agreement can be forged by the end of July, the European negotiator, Michel Barnier, marked October 31 as the deadline to have an agreement and to be able to complete the process of ratification of the treaty in time, for which You need the green light from the 27 national parliaments of the EU.

“Any treaty needs ratification by national and regional parliaments, they will have to go through their legal systems,” says Barnard, who believes that the process will be especially hard in countries like Belgium, with deep divisions in its Federal parliament, or in Spain, which He will take the opportunity to put issues such as fishing or Gibraltar on the table.

The epidemic, which dropped Brexit on the list of political priorities for months, also makes it difficult for European and British companies to adapt to a new reality, who could not face the crisis due to the pandemic and a possible disorder on the British border after The final break on December 31.

The mechanism to extend the Brexit transition has been ruled out, experts say that the possibility of modifying the date of the final break could still be changed by changing the terms of the exit agreement that was ratified in January, an option that would mean entering a legal maze in Brussels and that may require the approval of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

They also contemplate the drafting of a new treaty that establishes a transition period of the duration they deem appropriate, a move that, however, would cause problems for Johnson to reach trade agreements with third countries.

By Marta Pérez-Cejuela

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