Is there an agreement or not? – The Brexit drama is about to come to a showdown

The negotiators finally want to clarify by Monday at the latest. Are Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen setting the course today?

Time is of the essence: Boris Johnson hopes for a Brexit deal by Monday.

Time is of the essence: Boris Johnson hopes for a Brexit deal by Monday.


So many ultimatums and deadlines have already been consumed in the Brexit controversy that even negotiators sometimes joke that the new deadlines can hardly be taken seriously. But now it really should be that far away: according to information from the negotiating circles, the teams in London and Brussels have decided to probe as much as possible this weekend whether an agreement on a free trade agreement can be reached. By Monday at the latest it should be clear: is there an agreement or not?

The result is open, but in any case the Brexit drama is facing a showdown. On Friday evening, the two chief negotiators, Lord David Frost and Michel Barnier, announced in a joint statement that the talks would be halted to inform policy makers on the state of the negotiations. The conditions for an agreement have not yet been met, there are still significant differences in the three known critical points.

Two reasons for the deadline

The quota for EU fishermen in British waters, the requirements for fair competition between UK and EU companies and how disputes should be resolved are still controversial. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen want to make a phone call on Saturday afternoon. The two are expected to try to set the political course for a conclusion of the negotiations.

Time is running out. The UK left the EU at the end of January, but the real break is yet to come: the transition phase of Brexit will end at the end of the year, during which the UK remains part of the EU’s internal market and customs union. If a trade agreement is not concluded in December, customs duties and customs controls will be introduced starting in January, to the detriment of the economy, including Germany.

There are two main reasons for the Monday deadline. First: Johnson could therefore do without a renewed EU provocation. The UK government announced on Monday that it will review its controversial single market law. The House of Lords had removed the steps because they would have annulled the current exit treaty with the EU – which sparked the anger of Brussels. But Johnson wants to reverse this revision in the House of Commons. If there was a free trade agreement, it would no longer be necessary.

Secondly, the Monday deadline is confirmed by the fact that EU heads of state and government will meet on Thursday for the EU summit. Until then, the 27 governments would have enough time to review a possible deal and finally approve it. After that, the European Parliament and the House of Commons should accept the treaty. The European Parliament can only approve the agreement if it has been translated into all 24 official EU languages. This would take too long, even if a special session was called on December 28.

“From a tragedy to a farce”

If Parliament and all Member States agree, the treaty could, exceptionally, be initially adopted only in its English version. Or it could come into effect provisionally in January without parliamentary approval; the parliamentarians would give their consent later. Probably the most important trade agreement in the history of the EU would therefore only be scrutinized very superficially by the people’s representatives. As a result, they are shocked: “Brexit has turned from a tragedy into a farce,” says Bernd Lange, SPD MEP. “On average, it took 136 days in parliament to write commercial contracts,” complains the chairman of the trade committee.

At the same time, this flexibility means that talks could continue after Monday. Diplomats and officials in London and Brussels like to point out that there is only one really tough deadline: December 31st. And neither side wants to be the first to stand up from the negotiating table and expose itself to the accusation of causing the talks to fail.

The question of who will get the dollar if it fails is already up for debate. A British government representative accused EU chief negotiator Barnier on Thursday of burdening talks with “new elements”. London blames pressure from the French government for this. On the other hand, EU diplomats say there have been no new requests.

What is clear, however, is that some governments get nervous and fear that Barnier is making too many concessions to the British. French European minister Clement Beaune warned on Friday: “If the treaty is not good, we will stop it. Any country can veto “.

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