British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has responded to the European Union by raising the tone of his challenge. The British prime minister has already taken it for granted that the United Kingdom must start preparing for a rough Brexit on January 1. Only if Brussels changes its negotiating approach – if it offers a loan – will London rethink its decision, he suggested. But without completely breaking the bridges. Johnson has avoided expressing clearly that his government considered the negotiations broken.
On September 7, Johnson announced a kind of ultimatum. I was going to wait to check the tone and the conclusions of the European Council this Thursday and Friday, to announce whether the United Kingdom would finally get up from the table and begin to prepare to face a no-deal Brexit. He already said then that his government preferred to reach some kind of understanding with his former partners, but he was preparing citizens to contemplate the idea of a way out of the community institutions. Throughout this period, Johnson has toyed with the idea of two possible solutions: a trade agreement with the EU similar to the one with Canada (with the disappearance of some quotas and tariffs) or another like Australia's (much more terse in its ambitions ). The idea behind these examples was to highlight that London was limited to asking what Brussels had already granted to two countries belonging to the Commonwealth (Community of Nations). "Unless we see a fundamental change of approach (by the EU), we are going to choose the Australian solution," said Johnson, who has, however, resisted stating clearly that his announcement was a complete breakdown of the negotiations. "What we are saying to them is, 'come here, come closer to our position, but only if you really have a change of approach," he said.
The tone used by Johnson, who has stated more clearly than on other occasions that the responsibility for a future failure would lie solely with the EU – "they want to continue to control our freedom to legislate and our fish stocks in a way that is completely unacceptable to a country. independent "- suggests that the prime minister is again ready to force a crisis, in a last attempt to get the balance of negotiations to tip over to the British side.
As he already did on September 7, Johnson has indicated to British citizens and businessmen that they must prepare for a new relationship with the EU from January 1, and has tried to convey optimism that, in the current crisis caused by the covid -19, no longer sounds the same way to the recipients of your message. The pound has fallen sharply against the euro minutes after the prime minister appeared before the cameras. “Given that they have been the ones who have seriously refused to negotiate for the past few months, and since the Council seems to have explicitly ruled out agreeing to a Canadian deal, I have come to the conclusion that we must prepare to go on January 1 towards a situation subject to the simple basic principles of international free trade ”, he said.
The European Council on Thursday demanded that Johnson take the necessary steps to ensure that the United Kingdom would not be an unfair competitor with the EU in the future, and placed under Johnson's responsibility the need to make "the necessary moves to make possible the agreement ”. The British negotiator, David Frost, who had suggested to the prime minister that he keep the negotiations alive for at least two more weeks, was the first to express, through his Twitter account, a "disappointment" that Johnson has repeated in his television intervention of this Friday.
However, the climate of recent days in London was one of relative optimism. Negotiations between the two parties, those with information on the matter said, had advanced considerably, and only two points, those relating to fishing quotas and public aid to companies, remained as obstacles. And in the second case, the proposal to establish a common field of rules of the game that would allow London to escape the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice seemed to be gaining momentum.
However, the willingness of the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to travel to London next week to continue negotiating – which could be interpreted as a response to the "come to us" suggested by Johnson – has been coldly received. down Downing Street. "It does not make much sense if you are not willing to negotiate all the key issues, on the basis of legal text and in an expedited manner, while only requiring the UK to be the one to approximate its position," said a government spokesman.
That is why the first conclusions, after Johnson's expected intervention, point in two directions. Either it is a final challenge pending any minimum transfer that allows Johnson to appear victorious, or it is the prime minister's indication that the no-deal Brexit is already an inevitable reality, and what it is now is to negotiate the "technical aspects" necessary to prevent an economic and logistical disaster from overlapping on January 1 on the current crisis.
"A slim margin"
Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the end of the European summit in Brussels that in recent days she has been seeing "lights and also shadows" and has repeated the idea that has been going on for months. circulating: the EU seeks an agreement, and that is its “will”, but time is running out and it begins to have consequences. "We have to prepare in case it doesn't come out," he said. "Nobody, neither the EU nor London can want an agreement at any price," he said, a phrase that has become almost a mantra among the leaders of the Twenty-Seven. The chancellor has assured that there is still "margin", but little, since the ratification times have to be taken into account. And he added that the main issues that circulate as points of disagreement – fishing, unfair competition, governance – "are not the only" points of friction between the two blocks. "We are not negotiating a mere trade agreement, but how the UK separates from the EU."
French President Emmanuel Macron has gone even further: when asked by the press if he was willing to block an agreement on a fisheries issue, he replied: "I think you are a victim of information poisoning." According to his version: “It is not that we are stumbling over the fishing issue; this is the UK's tactical argument. We are stumbling on everything. " There are other issues, according to Macron, such as the access of the British to the European energy market, now interconnected, a juicy piece of the cake. “Fishing represents for us about 750 million euros. Access to the single energy market has an economic value for the British of between € 750 million and € 2.5 billion. It would be a bad deal ”for the British, he said. The leaders of the Twenty-Seven, he has said "are not here just to make the British Prime Minister happy." He has asked London for “efforts” to reach an agreement with Brussels, and has made a clear question: “He needs it more than we do”.
Charles Michel, President of the Council, has also repeated the Brussels mantra of "we are determined to reach an agreement, but not at any price", words that Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission, has also tweeted since her preventive isolation by have been in close contact with a positive for covid. "As planned," added Von der Leyen, "our negotiating team will travel to London next week to intensify the negotiations." Michel, in any case, has expressed himself at the end of the summit in a hopeful, pragmatic and open-ended tone: "We need to continue the negotiations and I hope that it is possible to make progress in the future."