After weeks of forced pause in the corona crisis, the european union and great britain are finally moving forward with clarifying their future trade relationship.
Both sides launched the first of three week-long rounds of negotiations via videoconference. Time is running out, as the brexit transition period ends at the end of the year. If no agreement is reached by then, there is a risk of a hard break with severe turbulence for the economy.
Great britain had left the EU at the end of january. But little has changed in the transition phase. Great britain will remain part of the EU single market and customs union, abide by EU rules and pay into the budget. It is now to be clarified how closely both sides will cooperate in the future, whether there will be customs and goods controls, whether fishermen will still be allowed to fish in each other’s waters, and many other questions.
After a first round of negotiations at the beginning of march, both sides had determined that their ideas were far apart. On 19. March, eu negotiator michel barnier announced an infection with coronavirus, and his british counterpart david frost also went into quarantine. Recently, only experts have been talking about possible contract texts. Tangible progress now needed to be made by june, barnier reiterated on twitter. He will inform about the results on friday.
The federation of german industry warned that the brexit would hit companies in addition to the corona crisis. "The effects of ending the transition phase without a follow-up agreement would be even more fatal," BDI chief executive joachim lang told the deutsche presse-agentur. "Time is more than short."The negotiators had to look carefully at all the options in the withdrawal agreement "to avoid a hard break of unknown proportions."".
The exit contract stipulates that the transition period can be extended by one or two years if both sides agree by june. But grob britain says no. The british government wants to finally leave EU rules behind and avoid contribution payments that came its way with a longer transition period.
On the new round of negotiations, a british government spokeswoman said only: "we continue to expect constructive talks with the aim of making progress before june."It should be built on the previous languages. It was possible to identify where there was agreement and where there were still differences.
EU parliament’s brexit commissioner david mcallister regretted that time had been lost because of the pandemic. Experience has also shown that digital negotiations are more difficult than face-to-face negotiations. Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that both sides arrived at acceptable results, the CDU politician explained.
The green european deputy anna cavazzini warned: "the already extremely tight schedule is almost impossible to keep. It is an impossibility to reach a negotiated result by the end of the year, when other trade agreements take years to negotiate."The eu must therefore work to extend the negotiations.
The SPD’s european politician katarina barley, however, considers an extension of the deadline unlikely, as she told the SWR radio station. Prime minister boris johnson and his government are eager to complete the brexit. But the time pressure does not improve the position. Chief negotiator barnier will not do anything unreasonable.