Catch up on Brexit: The last supper and no deal has never been closer | NOW



Brexit is back. The British have now left the European Union, but the two sides are still arguing about their future relationship. Time is running out and the news is piling up quickly, so we’ll have a quick update on what happened this week.

In the second week of December, the EU and the UK do not seem to have come closer together. The chance that the parties will reach a trade agreement before the end of the year now seems smaller than ever. Since this week, many British betting offices even get less money back in a no-deal Brexit than if the power blocks do reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the senior officials on both sides also estimate the chances of a trade agreement to be low. And the talks that took place on Wednesday, including during a dinner, between Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson did not help confidence in a good outcome. The leaders were also unable to break the deadlock during perhaps the last dinner in the negotiation period between the two leaders.

“It seems very, very likely that we should go for a solution that will be great for the UK,” British Prime Minister Johnson said Friday of the no-deal scenario. “We can then do exactly what we want from January.”

While Commission President Von Der Leyen called on the 27 European heads of government that same day to seriously consider a no deal.

Incidentally, during the European summit in Brussels, it was more about corona and climate change than about Brexit. Government leaders such as Macron and Merkel are deliberately not directly involved in the negotiations. Johnson is said to have invited his German and French colleagues for a telephone call this week, but received no appeal from both. They leave the Brexit negotiations to the European Commission and a select group of top civil servants led by Michel Barnier. Even now that a no deal is in the air, a visit by Merkel or Macron to London seems out of the question.

Return to the time of toll booths?

With just over two weeks to go, a compromise on difficult issues such as fisheries, competition rules and monitoring an agreement (if any) seems a bridge too far. If no agreement is on the table on December 31, the rules of the trade organization WTO will apply from the new year. This would radically change the way the UK and the EU trade. This could mean, for example, the return of toll booths and high import duties.

For example, if the British want to import Dutch minced meat, an import tax of 48 percent would have to be paid according to WTO tariffs. This could well lead to more expensive groceries, the British trade association for the retail trade reported Friday. A German think tank announced in September that a no-deal Brexit could potentially put 700,000 jobs at risk.

EU is coming up with targeted emergency measures

Is there then no longer any reason for hope for the proponents of a trade agreement? Negotiators are still in talks this weekend and there will probably be more clarity about the possible continuation of the negotiations in the course of Sunday. In the meantime, the EU has announced a package of targeted emergency measures in case no trade agreement is reached.

The plans ensure, among other things, that there will still be reciprocal air and road connections between the EU and the UK after 31 December. For example, both power blocks would have access to each other’s fishing waters for up to a year, even with a no deal. This offers Brussels and London the opportunity to reach a (partial) agreement on certain tricky issues in 2021.

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