The British Prime Minister, who had made lists weighing the pros and cons of EU membership before fully committing to the “Leave” camp in 2016, must decide whether to opt for a brutal or amicable divorce.
After a dinner in Brussels on Wednesday evening, Boris Johnson and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen saw their differences but they left until Sunday to try to overcome them.
Even if in the long series of Brexit the deadlines have been pushed back many times, it is now time to succeed, underlined Thursday the head of British diplomacy, Dominic Raab, deeming “improbable” an extension of the talks beyond the weekend.
Sunday’s deadline coincides with the first anniversary of Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory over the promise to ‘make Brexit’ and ‘take back control’ of laws, borders and UK money, as so desired ardently the pro-Brexit camp.
The Foreign Minister ruled that in order to reach an agreement, the European Union must “move significantly” on the issues of access to fishing grounds and the guarantees demanded of London by the EU in terms of competition in return access without customs duties or quotas to its market.
These are two “principles”, Mr. Raab recalled. For its part, the EU also stands by its principles and refuses to sacrifice the integrity of its enormous market.
The UK, which officially left the EU on January 31, will abandon the single market and customs union for good on December 31.
Without a trade agreement on that date, trade between London and the EU will be carried out under the sole rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas, at the risk of a new shock for consumers. economies already weakened by the coronavirus.
The European Union on Thursday published emergency measures in the area of fishing, road and air transport, which will apply from January 1 in the absence of an agreement.
Boris Johnson optimistically repeats that the UK will “prosper vigorously” with or without a deal. But a “no deal” would not be without economic consequences, which would add up to those of the coronavirus pandemic, which plunged the country into its worst recession in 300 years.
The disruption of the supply chain caused by the pandemic and the fears of a “no deal” which have pushed many companies to build up stocks have already caused the blockage of several British ports.
But the worst is undoubtedly to come in 2021 if the discussions fail.
Although its members are divided on Brexit, Labor, the main opposition party, seems inclined to support an agreement, even at the minimum, rather than a “no deal”.
Boris Johnson’s decision is ultimately a political decision: what are his ambitions for the country?
His government reiterated its willingness to maintain current food, environmental and employment standards, promising that it would not sell off those standards, even in exchange for an ambitious free trade agreement with states. -United.
But if so, what is the real point of Brexit?
“The Brexit negotiations were disastrous because the UK never seriously debated what it really wanted to achieve. Instead, ministers spent years pretending no compromise was necessary, “historian Robert Saunders wrote on Twitter.
“If everything is a red line, only two outcomes are possible: no agreement at all, or a minimum agreement that will be seen as a betrayal by those very people who have been told that the concessions were unnecessary,” he said. -he declares. “Brexit was a gigantic exercise in pride.”