by N. Peter Kramer
The seventh formal round of post-Brexit relationship talks ended up last week with the familiar stalemate. Both sides are now eying October’s European Council meeting as a deadline to allow time to pin the deal down before the transition period ends at 11 pm UK time on December 31. Although, there will be a next formal round of talks from September 7, between now and then the UK and the EU will remain in touch. But who seriously is expecting any positive result?
The unswerving EU chief negotiator Barnier refuses to engage seriously on other matters than state aid and fisheries. He wants the UK to accept the EU rules. It is clear that Brexit talks have never been a real negotiation between equals. ‘A level playing-field on state aid and subsidies is a non-negotiable precondition’ , Barnier said last Friday in a press conference. Adding redundantly that he ‘was disappointed and concerned and surprised’.
Minister David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, concluded that talks could not progress until the UK backs down and accepts the EU’s dictat. But Boris Johnson is not Theresa May. She was humiliated and affronted during meetings in Brussels. Now we see that preparations are underway in the UK for a hard Brexit.
Barnier expects that a no-deal will hurt the UK more than it hurts the EU. Probably he is right, but… The UK economy exits, an EU economy not; the EU is a collection of 27 different economies. And some of them will be harder hurt by a hard Brexit than the UK. The October European Council meeting could be another interesting one.