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Boris Johnson calls upon to ‘get ready’

No progress has been made about future EU-UK relations during the latest EU Summit

by: Isti Miskolczy

Photo courtesy of Frederick Tubiermont via Unsplash

Nothing demonstrates more how unprecedented times we are living in are than the fact that the EU summit of the 15-16 of October was already the second occasion in this month leaders of the bloc gathered together to discuss foreign affairs issues.

Besides COVID-19, tensions with Turkey, and climate change, a significant point on the agenda was the future EU-UK economic relations. The two parties have been trying to work on their relationship since 31 January 2020 when Downing Street officially seceded from the bloc. With that, a so-called “transition period” was evoked, which means that up until the 31st of December 2020 the UK will continue paying fees and obeying EU regulations but without the right to vote.

There are many issues to be tackled when it comes to Brexit: economic agreements, fishing, border control, security, nuclear cooperation – just to name a few.

So far, however, no further agreement has been reached between London and Brussels despite the invitation from Charles Michel, President of the EU Council for a second summit in October.

“We wanted nothing more complicated than a Canada-style relationship, based on friendship and free trade. […] that won’t work for our EU partners. They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country” – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told in a media briefing following the negotiations.

Mr Johnson warned that there are only ten weeks left until the end of the transition period, and since the summit ruled out a Canada-style deal, the UK should prepare for 1 January 2021 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on the principles of global free trade.

“And so now is the time for our businesses to get ready and for hauliers to get ready, and for travellers to get ready.” – he added.

As for the lack of success, Boris Johnson blamed the EU for refusing to negotiate seriously. David Frost, the chief Brexit negotiator of the UK was also disappointed with the outcome of the summit. He was surprised that the “EU is no longer committed to working intensively to reach a future partnership” and by the suggestion that “to get an agreement all future moves must come from the UK” – he tweeted. “It is an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation” – Mr. Frost added.

On the other hand, Charles Michel, President of the EU council said that “we want an agreement, but we also want to protect the level playing field. It's a question of fairness, it's a question of jobs, it's also the question of the integrity of the single market. We are ready to continue to negotiate with the UK.” Mr Michel also made it clear that the EU prefers a deal but not at any cost.

In a concluding document, the EU leaders noted that the current situation of the negotiations is still insufficient for an agreement to be reached. “The European Council reaffirms the Union’s determination to have as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom […]. Against this background, the European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator to continue negotiations in the coming weeks and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible.” – the leaders of the member states also told in said joint statement.

As for further measures, the European Council called upon all Member States and Union Institutions to start preparing for all outcomes, including that of no agreement.


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