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Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union are at stake

Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to Downing Street after a cabinet meeting on December 8, 2020 in London, England.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Brexit talks have been dominated in recent weeks by numerous anonymous “sources” to inform correspondents both in the UK and the continent about the perilous state of negotiations aimed at the post-Brexit trade deal.

The two sides accused each other of unwillingness to compromise on key issues, with sticking points and “red lines” remaining over fishing rights, competition rules, and the administration of any final deal.

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to travel to Brussels this week For face-to-face meetings with European Commission President Ursula von der LeyenHope for a breakthrough.

But in the meantime, officials on both sides continue to comment out loud on the efforts made – and the obstacles remaining – before an agreement can be reached.

Johnson warned Tuesday that the talks were not in good shape.

“You have to be optimistic, you have to believe that there is the power of a gentle mind to override this thing. But I have to tell you, it looks very difficult right now,” he told reporters.

However, Johnson will go to the Belgian capital this week (timing is uncertain, but Wednesday or Friday have been discussed as possibilities) to meet with his European counterpart, to see if personal conversations can help resolve the impasse between negotiators.

Von der Leyen said on Monday that the two sides had asked their chief negotiator to draw up a list of “remaining differences for discussion in person in the coming days.”

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Britain is keen to stress that it wants a bargain. Scenario without a deal It is likely to bring disruptions and higher business costs to companies and exporters on both sides of the English Channel.

Both sides accuse each other of making unreasonable demands. The United Kingdom felt that the European Union did not understand its need for sovereignty over its affairs and its future, while the European Union believed that it must do whatever it takes to protect the integrity of its single market.

Some on the British side accused the European Union of shifting goal positions late in the talks and of making new unfair demands.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted that the ball was in the European Union’s court, noting on Tuesday that Johnson was “straining every strings in an effort to get a deal that works for both the UK and the European Union, and this deal is likely to be feasible but the union The European clearly has to do that. “

War of Words

France entered the war of words on Tuesday, and the minister for European affairs reminded negotiators of one of their responsibilities that any deal must address – fishing rights.

Although it represents a small portion of the economy in both the UK and the European Union, the fisheries issue is an emotional punch in countries such as the UK, France and the Netherlands that have fishing communities, and where there is public pressure to defend them.

French President Clement Boone insisted that his country would not “sacrifice” its fishing crews in any commercial deal. “There is no reason to give in to Britain’s pressure. We can make some efforts, but sacrifice the fisheries and fishermen, no,” Bonn told RMC Radio, stressing that France will veto any agreement it considers “bad.”

So what do analysts think of the prospects for getting a deal now as the clock approaches December 31, when the post-Brexit transition period ends? Any agreement reached by negotiators must be ratified by the European Parliament until time runs out. Not all are bleak, as someone told CNBC on Tuesday that there was still time.

Steen Jacobsen, chief economist and chief information officer at Saxo Bank, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that he did not “understand all the hype” about the current state of the talks. “Do not forget that the European Union does not conclude any deals from one minute to 12 minutes in advance, which means that we are far from the end date of these negotiations, which is the end of December,” he said. Transfer.”

Jacobsen thinks the UK and European Union can “stop the clock” and continue talks beyond December 31 if necessary. “I agree with you that the calendar year has gotten a little tricky, but there are ways to do that including stopping the clock that we saw before.”

“There are a number of diplomatic ways to play this game,” he said.

The European Union Commission confirmed on Tuesday that it did not rule out the possibility of continuing the talks after the transition period, but the United Kingdom had rejected that option in the past. The chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Tuesday that a school, or even a university, was needed for patience, Reuters reported.

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