Challenges in post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU

Post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union (EU) continued to take place in the context of disagreements between the two sides still at a fierce level with neither side willing to “go down the ladder”. Meanwhile, the British side seems to be preparing to accept a scenario of a no-deal Brexit.

British Union Jack and EU flags are pictured at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 20, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
British Union Jack and EU flags are pictured at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 20, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

The UK and EU will enter the next round of negotiations starting this week in search of a free trade agreement, replacing the previous relations between the two sides due to Brexit. This is the first direct meeting between the two sides since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although there are only a few months left until the UK and EU will end the transition period, all relations between the two sides will be established on a completely new platform. After many previous rounds of negotiations, negotiators on both sides have not been able to solve their disagreements on major issues including fishing, a level playing field, basic rights in criminal justice and the management of future partnerships.

During recent online talks, senior leaders of the EU and UK added new impetus to the impasse after post-Brexit trade talks. In a joint statement issued after the conference, UK and EU leaders agreed to support plans to accelerate negotiations in July so that an agreement can be reached before the end of 2020. However, in the current situation, analysts are not optimistic about the two sides' real progress in this week's round of negotiations, where both the UK and EU still take a tough stance.

On the EU side, right before the new round of negotiations, in a statement to the European Parliament, European Commission President U. Leyen announced that the EU would try its best to reach an agreement on a new relationship with the UK before the end of the year, but would not compromise on its standards to achieve that.

Earlier, in a speech on Europe 1 radio, French Minister of State for European Affairs A. Montchalin said that she could not rule out that the European Union’s trade talks with departed ex-member Britain could end without a deal though it was in the British interest to reach one. According to her, those who need a deal the most are the British and they cannot withstand a second shock after the epidemic, referring to the British economy struggling badly due to COVID-19.

German Chancellor A. Merkel said that the UK will have to “assume the consequences” of weaker economic ties with the EU at the end of the Brexit process.

Meanwhile, the British side was not too concerned about a “Hard Brexit Scenario” (a no-deal Brexit). In a series of tweets, David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, announced: “I want to be clear that the government will not agree to ideas like the one currently circulating giving the EU a new right to retaliate with tariffs if we chose to make laws suiting our interests. “We could not leave ourselves open to such unforeseeable economic risk”, he emphasised.

Britain will be ready to sever ties with the European Union “on Australian terms” if no deal on its future relationship with the bloc is reached, Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently told his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki. Accordingly, the UK will not have a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU. Most commercial transactions between the two sides will then merely comply with the provisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It seems that London is prepared for a scenario of a no-deal Brexit.

In the above context, it seems that the post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU will continue. In a case where is not a happy ending to the Brexit story, this would be a great pity for both the UK and the EU. Not to mention that the UK leaving the “EU family” without reaching a bilateral trade agreement could increase economic difficulties for both sides, in the context that the regional economy has sunk deep into recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic.