At a distance between Britain and the EU
In a last attempt to prevent a chaotic Brexit, met yesterday in Brussels, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Commission President Ursula von der Laien. Before the working dinner, the head of the commission was heard telling the diners: “Keep your distance.” The composition, of course concerned, the coronavirus, and the distance between the two sides.
An honest effort to bridge differences or engage in public relations so that the other side can be held responsible for the prescribed wreck? The question hovered over Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen as they attended yesterday’s working dinner in Brussels in a last-ditch effort to reach a Brexit agreement.
Dinner started at 8.30 p.m. Brussels time (9.30 pm Greek time), with the British Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission accompanied by the leaders of their negotiating teams, David Frost and Michel Barnier respectively. The menu was rich in seafood (scallops) and fish (turbot), symbolizing in its own way one of the thorny issues where the positions of the two sides clash: the fishing rights of Europeans in British waters. Before the start of the dinner, in the traditional commemorative photo, Ursula von der Leyen was heard saying to Boris Johnson: “Keep your distance”! Of course the prompt had to do with the coronavirus, but it could also be interpreted metaphorically.
No one expected a coherent agreement on trade relations between the EU to emerge from yesterday’s meeting. and the United Kingdom after 31 December, when the Brexit transition period expires. At best, there could be an outline of a political agreement under which rapid consultations would begin between the two negotiating parties to settle the details. Otherwise, yesterday’s dinner would formalize the stalemate and chaotic Brexit, with its unpredictable financial consequences, would be inevitable.
In the last hours before the crucial meeting, both sides sent messages of determination, which rather strengthened the nervousness of the markets, rather than calmed their fears. Answering questions from members of the House of Commons before leaving for the Belgian capital, Boris Johnson said that while he hoped for a “good deal”, he was not prepared to make concessions on national sovereignty Britain will have a “bright future” without a trade agreement with the other side of the English Channel.
“Our friends in the EU insist at the moment that if they pass laws in the future with which we, in this country, will not agree and which we will not implement, then they should automatically have the right to punish us. “I do not think there could be a prime minister ready to accept such terms,” said Boris Johnson.
A little earlier, Angela Merkel had sent her own messages from the podium of the German Parliament. “The integrity of the single market must be preserved,” she said. “If conditions are set by the British side that we cannot accept, then we are ready to follow the path of Brexit without an agreement.”