After divorce, Brussels and London open new negotiations

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The European Union and Great Britain are opening this first round of talks in Brussels on Monday, which promises to be tense on the outlines of their post-Brexit relationship, particularly in terms of trade and security.

The two sides have expressed their desire to reach an agreement by December 31, the date on which the transition period following the formal exit of Great Britain from the community bloc on January 31 will end.

A hundred British representatives are expected in Brussels for a first round of discussions with the European executive which is to last until Thursday.

A second round of negotiations is next scheduled to take place in London later this month, and regular meetings should then take place two or three weeks apart.

The Union is ready to grant Great Britain privileged access to its single market of 450 million people, provided that London offers guarantees as to the respect of certain competition rules – notably with regard to public aid.

But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants to distance himself from the EU and refuses to be bound by the rules and jurisdictions of the EU bloc, which Brussels considers essential to guarantee fair competition.

The conservative leader has annoyed the Union by backtracking on a possible more ambitious and broader relationship than that which the two camps agreed to last year in their divorce agreement.

UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove displayed an uncompromising tone in a column on Sunday. “We want the best possible trade relationship with the EU. But we will not trade our newly recovered sovereignty,” he said.

Her colleague in charge of international trade, Liz Truss, warned Monday morning that the United Kingdom would not back down on the interests of its fishermen. “We are not going to haggle over our fishing sector (…). We are going to negotiate an agreement with the EU which will not involve liquidating our fisheries”, she insisted.

Emmanuel Macron said last month that France would not abandon its own fishing sector in the post-Brexit negotiations and added that it would seek compensation measures if French fishermen do not obtain similar access to the waters British.

Fishing was the subject of the very first “post-Brexit” friction between Paris and London in early February after French fishing boats were deprived of access to the waters of the Channel Island of Guernsey.

Brussels and London will determine in June whether the conclusion of a basic trade agreement is possible by the end of the year.

Otherwise, the levels of their trade could decline considerably if they revert to relations based on the general rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which provide for customs duties and quotas.

The lack of confidence between the two camps has been fueled by comments from London that Britain may not conduct controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, its only land border with the bloc.

“Overall, it is already clear that June will be complicated. It is hard to imagine much progress by then, so the situation will start to get tense,” said a diplomat. European involved in the Brexit negotiations.


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