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Brexit: EU ready to launch “difficult” negotiations with London

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The European Union (EU) is ready to start negotiations on its future relations with the United Kingdom, but the process promises to be arduous and could fail if London reneges on its commitments regarding the security of the Irish border.

The EU27 Ministers for European Affairs, meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, adopted their joint negotiating mandate.

In London, the British government for its part validated its own negotiating mandate on Tuesday, which will be published on Thursday.

A first round of talks will take place from Monday to Thursday in Brussels and another will take place in London during the month of March, said European negotiator Michel Barnier, adding that the EU wanted to launch 10 parallel negotiating groups on themes such as trade, security or foreign policy.

“These will be complex, demanding, very difficult negotiations,” he said, stressing the tight timetable to try to reach an agreement, London refusing to prolong the negotiations beyond the end of 2020.

The United Kingdom officially left the EU on January 31 after three years of delicate discussions which did not lead to a final solution on the border issue between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – the only land border between the bloc and the United Kingdom – and how to avoid the re-establishment of a physical separation capable of raising community tensions.

As Brussels and London hold firm speech ahead of the start of the first round of negotiations next Monday, Ireland has warned that even a basic trade deal may prove impossible to reach by the end of the year if London does not honor its commitments under the withdrawal agreement.

“If there is no progress on the necessary infrastructure (…) in the coming months, this will be a very bad signal on the probability of reaching a reasonable agreement by the end of the year “Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told reporters on arrival in Brussels.

“The main objective of the United Kingdom in these negotiations is to ensure that we can restore our economic and political independence on January 1, 2021,” said British Prime Minister spokesman Boris Johnson.

According to the complex separation agreement, Northern Ireland remains in the British customs area but goods from the rest of the United Kingdom transiting through this territory and destined for Ireland or the rest of the EU would be apply customs tariffs.

The mandate adopted by the 27 is aimed at preserving the United Kingdom – which remains within the framework of the customs union and the single market until December 31 – from quotas and customs barriers.

In return, London would agree not to downgrade its environmental, social, tax standards and its rules on public assistance.

But the government of Boris Johnson has already refused to engage on such bases, stressing that its priority objective in the negotiations is “political and economic independence”.

If it proves impossible to reach a complete trade agreement, London declares itself ready to accept from 2021 customs tariffs and quotas comparable to those provided for in the agreement between the EU and Canada, or even less favorable trade rules governed by the basic rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“If we cannot maintain this regulatory proximity, then we will have to (…) apply tariffs or quotas”, declared to the journalists the French secretary of state in charge of European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin.

“This is not revenge, but a rational economic position,” she added.

In fact, the European negotiating mandate specifies that any new treaty between the EU and the United Kingdom, due to its geographic proximity, must “prevent any distortion in trade and any unfair competitive advantage in order to ensure a lasting relationship “between the two parties.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the talks will be complex.

“The time constraint is huge, the interests are huge, it’s a very complicated treaty so it’s going to be very difficult,” he said.

France, by the voice of Amélie de Montchalin, recalled that it was “necessary to favor a good agreement rather than to submit to the pressure of time”, said the Quai d’Orsay in a press release.

Currently, the EU receives 45% of British exports and the United Kingdom sources from the Community bloc for 53% of its imports.

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