The eighth negotiation meeting of the year between the British and Europeans around Brexit will begin on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
The eighth negotiation meeting of the year between the British and Europeans around Brexit will begin on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

New training session for both teams: Tuesday, September 8, will be the eighth meeting of the year between the British and European delegations. And it is also the kick-off of the final phase of this process of leaving the European Union which began … in 2016.

Since January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union: it is no longer represented either in Parliament or in the Commission. But as far as the commercial relationship between London and the 27 is concerned, nothing is written yet, we are in a period of transition, and this until the end of the year.

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From January 1, only two scenarios are possible. The first: London and Brussels succeed in defining a free trade agreement together. In this case, the final whistle: everyone has won! However, and this is not a detail, some time must be allowed for the 27 to ratify the text. Ideally, things should therefore be frozen from mid-October, which is to say tomorrow. But negotiations still stumble on fishing and fair competition conditions.

If nothing moves and no compromise is possible, the parties will engage in the second scenario, which is most likely at this stage. Without an agreement, only the rules of the World Trade Organization apply, with high tariffs. This is not the dream scenario for economies that are emerging very weakened by the coronavirus epidemic. The GDP of the United Kingdom lost 20% in the second quarter which represents the worst recession in all of Europe (France is at -13.8% according to OECD figures. Moreover, the new word to the fashion across the Channel it is not Brexit, it is not the Covid, it is a new strange thing between the two: the “Brovid.” The pro-Europeans prefer him “britastrophe!”

Is it amateurism? Or a real tactic scaffolded in the Downing Street locker room? For a few days the British have applied an offensive pressing on their opponents: this weekend, a rare occurrence, the negotiator David Frost gave an interview to the Mail on Sunday. He warns that his country will not become “a vassal state” of the European Union.

Monday morning, it is the boss of the club himself who gives a layer. Boris Johnson lets know, via his Downing Street services, that he will speak this afternoon and that if no agreement is reached by October 15, well, too bad, it will be the famous no deal, and we will pass to something else. Not even afraid !

If there is no free trade agreement between us, we will have to accept it and move on

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BoJo does BoJo: he attacks so as not to be caught out and plays the bullshit against his electorate, to reiterate that there is no question of touching the fundamentals and selling off “the country’s independence” – the argument comes back as a leitmotif.

For the conservative Prime Minister, a lack of agreement would absolutely not prevent the country from doing good business and resuming growth. Last Thursday, the government also authorized the emergency construction of 29 parking lots for heavy goods vehicles around the Channel Tunnel and the ports of southern England, simply “in case” the return of border controls would lead to monster traffic jams. Simple precautionary measure or preparation for a scenario that seems inevitable? Sign of the growing concerns of investors, the pound sterling trended sharply lower Monday on the financial markets.

For the past few days, London has been stepping up the bluff. Like this “exclusivity” of Telegraph, a daily close to Boris Johnson, who assured a few days ago that Michel Barnier would no longer be the European negotiator. One more rumor (to crack the European clan?), Immediately denied by Clément Beaune, the French secretary for European affairs.

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The latest push is of quite another importance: according to leaks – well organized – the British government will present on Wednesday a text that would restore its sovereignty to British law over parts of the agreement signed in October. A text which would allow in particular “to eliminate” the legal scope of customs regulations in Northern Ireland. The provisions in question provided for the maintenance of certain European rules in the British province in order to guarantee the absence of a physical border and avoid the resurgence of tensions in this region.

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A spokeswoman for the British government explains: in the event of a no-deal, “As a responsible government, we are considering fallback options (…) to ensure the protection of communities in Northern Ireland”.

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There will be no deal with the UK to the detriment of the European Union

We will know more on Wednesday, but this law risks torpedoing the current trade negotiations. Using a still diplomatic tone, the Irish Foreign Minister considers that such a bill would be a “very reckless way of proceeding”. A European diplomat, he takes out the red card and does not hesitate to talk about “self-destructive strategy”.

Another diplomatic source in Brussels interviewed by AFP has these words: “If Downing Street is serious about jumping off the Brexit cliff for ideological reasons, the EU will have absolutely no way of preventing that. If, on the other hand, the UK’s approach becomes more pragmatic and realistically, there will probably be a good chance of saving the negotiations and agreeing on a deal in October “. The match is far from over.

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