Here are the issues: Since the UK officially left the EU on 31 January, it has been a time of transition where EU rules are still followed in the main areas, especially trade.
The whole point of the transition period is to create a place where both parties can safely discuss their future relationship without disturbing business and citizens. However, the transition period will end on December 31 and sources on both sides say the talks are not going very well.
The epidemic did not help the political stalemate. Discussion teams have been unable to meet physically, instead relying on video conferencing equipment. The next round of virtual talks is set to begin on Tuesday, but sources on both sides said it has damaged the quality of the talks, as individuals are unable to take part in private chats on how to resolve thorny issues. And the scale of the coronavirus crisis has overshadowed the urgency of the Brexit talks.
Johnson now has to take a look at the complex and obvious negotiations with the world’s largest trading bloc, and also oversee the response to the country’s worst public health crisis in decades.
Both sides agreed that June should be used for a period of time to reflect on whether the agreement has any point of view, or whether they should have fired a shot at negotiations with respect and prepared to create a deal-compromise situation.
No deal is almost universally accepted as the worst outcome. The British economy relied heavily on imports from Europe. The biggest deviations of this trade will affect the supply chains – car manufacturers make life a living hell for businesses that depend on them, and there is a crisis in household necessities such as food for consumers. Numerous studies have predicted that this would be a huge economic loss for both the family and the country.
Despite claims that neither the UK nor the European Union wants this outcome, negotiators fear a political stalemate that is likely to escalate. “The European Union is being unreasonable, claiming that if we want a free trade agreement, we must abide by EU rules,” according to a UK government official who was not authorized to speak on the record. The discussion began. “Obviously, they know we can’t accept it. What would Braxit have if we had done that?” The same formula.
The rules they refer to are a particularly thorny part of the discussion known as the “level playing field”. It is basically an agreement for some rules and standards designed to stop the business from discouraging some parties from doing business. The EU’s single market is the world’s largest economic bloc. Its level playing field is supervised by European Union courts and institutions. And if the UK wants duty-free access after the transition period – such as Johnson’s position last fall when he signed the initial Brexit agreement with the EU – the European Union will have to sign up to the rules.
The level playing field is not the only area that Brussels and London have not seen. There are differences over phishing rights, protection and governance, and what exactly happens on the island of Ireland. However, negotiators in both London and Brussels are confident that the long-term crisis due to the cliff edge will bring both sides together. The same cannot be said for differences in level playing fields.
The European Union (EU) has said it will drop its ambitions for a duty-free trade with the EU if it removes its players’ playing field demands. The EU is not interested in this idea because it believes that there is not enough time left in the transition period to discuss tariffs.
Theoretically, Johnson could have bought more time if he wanted to go down this path. He has until June 31 to extend the transition period. But it would be so politically toxic that it now seems unthinkable to Johnson’s advisers to do so. This is the toxicity of the Brescit controversy that probably doesn’t make any deal, because any comprehensible identification would get Johnson into trouble with his supporters.
Also, the epidemic strangely creates the opportunity to mask the considerable negative impact that a not-deal Brexit could have on the UK economy. Anand Menon, director of the Transformed Europe think tank UK, said: “There is a definite argument for tackling both economic barriers at once.
“Everything from the supply chain to the economy-driven way, this virus will change everything. So, although the two things are not really related and the other can get worse, I can see some arguments politically to do everything at once.
Even better, the epidemic creates a place for the government to throw money at any big push on the road, the worst should happen.
“Some parts of the economy will be damaged by both Braxit and the coronavirus,” said Raul Ruparel, a Brexit adviser to Theresa May. If Johnson spends government money to soften the influence of these regions, he sees that there is less opposition than he spends this money merely to indulge in Braxit’s influence, as there is much more unity in the political spectrum above necessity. For such expenses to help recover from Covid-19 “
In Brussels, some years ago, member states came to terms with no agreement at the end of the year. “We can no longer invest sensitively in the UK’s decision,” said a European diplomat based in Brussels. “This is a country outside the EU, we are focusing on recovering our coronavirus,” the same source said.
This level of carelessness is not uncommon in EU institutions, where an official working on the negotiations said in a jiffy that “the UK can do whatever it wants” and that Brussels was ready for a “stalemate” by the end of June. .
The EU has believed for some time that it will deal better with non-deal shocks than the UK. “The EU knows that it is in a stronger position. Yes, no agreement is bad for them, but it is worse for the UK,” said Thomas Cole, a former EU negotiator. “It’s true that both sides are sovereign, but they are very aware that the UK does not need to make the kind of concessions it needs.”
And just as in the UK, the coronavirus could make it easier to calculate a specific deal to consume the European Union in the long run. “Curiously, this could further guide the aspects of any agreement for the EU,” said Fabian Julieg, chief executive of the European Policy Center. “Companies that wanted to close their operations across post-Covid Europe may decide that it is easier to close UK offices and factories altogether. This actually solves some problems, in some cases.”
Of course, neither side wants an agreement and both still tell reporters that they are committed to breaking this stalemate and reaching a mutually beneficial solution. However, the current political turmoil is likely to get worse because it has a history of bracing for June.
If the discussion breaks down, both sides will expect the other to point the finger at the victim. This may be politically useful to Johnson in the short term, as he is playing the role of the brave leader who was convicted in Europe. However, as Menon noted, the post-Kovid world is already looking to be a messy, incredible place.
“Everyone is angry at China, and God knows what will happen in the US election,” he said. “Does the UK really want to slap Europe with the epidemic and its bold new future?”
So if Boris Johnson is serious about not wanting to avoid a deal, the combination of negotiations has cooled, with both sides being distracted by the epidemic, and this stressful time of June seeks a hellish start to the summer.